EAGLE COUNTY — The Vail Valley remains in a drought. But this year’s version isn’t bad enough to cancel the area’s Fourth of July fireworks.
Last year, hot, dry conditions forced town and resort officials up and down the valley to pull the plug on their fireworks shows. Even Vail, which was ready for its first year of “non-combustible” fireworks similar to those used in sports arenas, called off its show, essentially to be in solidarity with the rest of the state.
This year’s drought has hit the Front Range the hardest, with several communities east of the Continental Divide calling off their shows. But this part of the Western Slope is still living off the wet spring to an extent so the shows are able to go on.
At least that’s the word as of Friday. Events could still result in a fireworks-free Fourth in places.
“We’re moving forward, but we’re being very, very cautious,” Bettie Tymkovich of the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District said. The Eagle-based fire department is the lead agency for the annual downvalley show, which is funded primarily by the towns of Eagle and Gypsum.
Tymkovich said fire officials are paying close attention to temperatures, relative humidity and, of course, the moisture level in the vegetation around the Eagle County Fairgrounds, where the fireworks are ignited. A sudden change in those conditions could still lead to cancelling the show, she said.
Working with other area fire departments, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, the Eagle County Sheriffs Office and even Vail Mountain Rescue, the main zone for the fireworks will be heavily watered during the day, and officials will keep a sharp eye peeled for anything that looks like a stray spark.
Tymkovich also said Eagle police officers will be patrolling town looking for anyone holding their own fireworks displays. The patrols are a repeat of last year, when every agency with flashing lights on its vehicles was looking for anything that even sort of resembled a puff of smoke.
Outside of Eagle, Eagle County officials are also warning people of the potential danger of private fireworks.
Colorado law prohibits the use of any personal fireworks that leave the ground or explode. That includes bottle rockets and firecrackers. A release from the county also notes that personal fireworks are prohibited on federal land, and warns that police will take a “zero tolerance” approach to anyone caught violating those laws.
In other words, that bottle rocket will get you a ticket if you’re caught.
While officials are urging caution, one of the state’s biggest Independence Day parties is set for July 3 in Avon. That party, the annual Salute to the USA, was drastically scaled back last year, a few weeks before the holiday. The 2012 version of the celebration still had music and food vendors, but the lack of fireworks meant that hundreds, not thousands of people went to Nottingham Park.
Avon officials tried to wring something good from the cancellation, holding a winter festival and fireworks show at Nottingham Park. It drew some crowds, but certainly wasn’t the same as the annual warm-weather party.
This year is different. The town has booked a pair of renowned bands for 2013’s Salute to the USA — Whitewater Ramble and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The beer and food vendors have been lined up, and the kid-friendly area by the restrooms will be in full operation.
“The latest report I saw indicated that ‘Stage 1’ fire restrictions aren’t being imposed in the county,” Egger said late last week. “Even with ‘Stage 2’ restrictions we could still do it.
“Avon’s fireworks are happening,” Egger said. “It’s splendid and cool here at night, so we hope people will come join us.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at smiller@vail daily.com.