Too dry: Breckenridge calls off July 4 fireworks show

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Daily file photo While the annual fireworks display in Breckenridge won't likely take place this year, the ones over Dillon Reservoir in Frisco should be a go.

BRECKENRIDGE – Aiming to set an example during a period of extreme fire danger, the Breckenridge Town Council agreed to cancel the town’s July Fourth fireworks display unless the holiday follows several days of lower fire danger.

“I would vote to send a real strong message that we don’t do fireworks because there’s that much concern,” Councilman Gary Gallagher said. “I think you lead by example.”

Under stage-one fire bans countywide and Colorado laws, private fireworks displays are prohibited, but council members said they still see people using them every year.

But fire conditions this year are exceptionally bad, fire officials said, and the danger of a wildfire being ignited by home pyrotechnics is high.

“Three things have happened,” Red, White and Blue fire chief Lori Miller told the town council Tuesday. “We had a record season for snowfall and moisture two years ago. Grasses grew higher than we’ve ever seen. That was followed by a record drought. The grasses that usually get matted down are still standing. Then we’ve had high winds, which just adds the whole X-factor to forest health that allows for easier fire starts. I don’t mean to be a buzz kill, but … conditions are very dangerous at this point.”

The council decided to go ahead and purchase the fireworks, using the $15,500 already budgeted for the display.

If Summit County’s fire danger rating – currently set to “very high,” the fourth highest of five levels – does not drop to “moderate” or “low” by July 1 and stay there until the Fourth, the town show will be scuttled. The fireworks purchased for this year will be used at another event, to enhance the New Year’s Eve display or saved for July Fourth next year, town officials said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is considering a statewide ban on fireworks as well, as the High Park fire continues to burn near Fort Collins and drought conditions persist across Colorado.

Details of the potential statewide ban were not being made public as of Wednesday afternoon.

Breckenridge police will be cracking down on illegal fireworks over the holiday if the fire danger remains high and the town show is cancelled, authorities said. Additional officers normally on duty for crowd control and traffic will be reassigned to firework patrol.

“If they see or hear fireworks they are going to be given a directive to seek out the source,” Breckenridge Police Department spokeswoman Kim Green said. “We will be on a zero-tolerance policy. … No warnings will be given, we will cite everyone and the fireworks will be confiscated and will be destroyed.”

Frisco’s fireworks show is still a go, as they are shot off over Dillon Reservoir. The town intends to ask for an exception to be able to continue with the show if the governor does pass a statewide firework ban.

“We’re doing what we can to preserve our fireworks show,” Frisco Councilman Kent Willis said. “To me, fireworks and the Fourth of July go hand in hand, and it’s hard to have the Fourth of July without fireworks.”

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