EAGLE COUNTY - It's going to be a fireworks-free Fourth.
With much of the state in either a "severe" or "extreme" drought, and little precipitation forecast for the next week, the towns of Vail and Avon have canceled their annual fireworks shows this year. The news came Tuesday following news last week that Eagle, Beaver Creek and Copper Mountain would all be canceling their shows in light of extreme regional fire dangers.
Tuesday's news came with a combination of disappointment and relief.
Vail Town Council member Susie Tjossem said it's unfortunate that the town won't put on a display of high-tech fireworks that are used in indoor arenas and other venues - fireworks that hit the ground cold to the touch.
On the other hand, Tjossem said canceling Vail's show is the right thing to do.
"We'd done our homework and we had the right kind of product," Tjossem said, adding that having any kind of fireworks display would send a message that it was OK for individuals to use their own fireworks. And, right now is a terrible time to light even a kid's sparkler.
Avon Town Council members voiced similar sentiments at Tuesday's meeting.
"As safe as I believe our venue is, if a fire were to start, the potential destruction and financial implications for the town could be extreme," Councilman Chris Evans said.
That's especially true since outside help might not come if a town went ahead with a show. In a memo to the Avon council last week, Eagle River Fire Protection District Chief Karl Bauer wrote that any town that went ahead with a show in the current conditions might not be eligible for disaster funding if a fire did spark because of fireworks.
Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller said he's relieved that there won't be any kind of fireworks in town this year. With no show, Miller said his firefighters would be freed up for other duties.
Firefighters who had been assigned to Vail Village will instead be watching elsewhere for individual fireworks, or people smoking outdoors or using charcoal grills.
Even without fireworks shows, the valley should be pretty busy for the holiday.
"Fireworks are a want, not a need," Vail Valley Partnership Director Chris Romer said. "I don't see it as a major draw to come to the Vail Valley."
Romer said the valley's true draws are its cooler-than-Denver weather, Vail's parade, the concerts in Nottingham Park and other events.
"Fireworks is just the icing on the cake," he said.
And Avon events coordinator Danita Chirichillo said she's confident the town can "host a pretty darned good event," even without fireworks. Most of the vendors already lined up for the Nottingham Park event will probably attend, and Chirichillo said she'll encourage other local businesses to attend if any of the other vendors drop out.
While the Fourth of July fireworks shows have been canceled, both Vail and Avon are holding on to their supplies for future use.
Tjossem said Vail's fireworks could be used for some of the 50th anniversary celebrations for Vail Mountain.
In Avon, council members said they'd like to see their supply used for some sort of winter event instead of paying a 30 percent restocking fee to just return the fireworks. The town already paid about $50,000 for its fireworks, but would get about $35,000 of that refunded for returning them. Instead, the town has committed to finding a new use for the fireworks.
"You're not the only one who's canceling (fireworks)," local restaurateur Brian Nolan said. "Let's pick a weekend and create a fireworks show. ... We might want to take a weekend and have a joint event."