LEADVILLE,Colo.—As firefighters show promise in containing the Waldo Canyon Fire–the most destructive wildfire in Colorado’s history–counties and municipalities around the state have decided to play it safe and cancel their July Fourth fireworks displays.
In Colorado Springs, 350 homes were destroyed, and more than 7,000 evacuees returned home this week. The city has established a “zero tolerance” policy on fireworks, according to its website.
“In the city of Colorado Springs, fireworks are always illegal,” said Sunny Smaldino of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, according to a Huffington Post report.
She added that for public fireworks displays, a permit is needed, but this year the city “didn’t issue any of those permits simply because of our conditions—it’s not worth the risk.”
On June 14, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a statewide ban on private fireworks displays. Since then, more than 30 cities across the state have canceled their traditional fireworks displays, according to CBS News.
Even in the highest elevations of the central Rocky Mountains, which normally have more moisture due to snowpack and rain, fire conditions are prevalent.
Just outside Leadville (elevation 10,200 feet) in Lake County, the Treasure Fire erupted in Birdseye Gulch on June 23, rapidly spreading across 420 acres.
“We saw fire behavior we haven’t seen before,” said U.S. Forest Service District Ranger John Morrissey, with the Leadville Ranger District, Pike and San Isabel National Forests. “Normally it’s wet enough that the fire creeps on the ground. This Treasure Fire moved quickly to the crowns of the trees. We had flames over 100 feet.”
Morrissey said the Treasure Fire was definitely the largest fire seen in the area in 18 years, and possibly in 38 years.
Leadville–Lake County Fire Department (LLCFD) Chief Dan Dailey said that factors such as fuel moisture content and low relative humidity have created these conditions. He also said that the county had enacted Stage 2 fire restrictions, which restrict the use of chainsaws and gas-powered equipment and bans open fires and even charcoal in grills.
“Basically, if it makes an ash, you cannot do it; if it has a switch, you can,” Chief Dailey said.
For a small town like Leadville, Fourth of July fireworks are a big deal. The local Lions Club puts on the volunteer event and collects donations during the year to purchase the explosives.
Townsfolk are “disappointed but understanding,” says Lions Club District 6W President Linda Finkenbinder. “It’s so dry, it is really not a good idea.”
Finkenbinder said that the funds collected will be used for next year’s fireworks display, adding that if those who donated by check want their money back, they can request it.
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