Freedom sans fireworks looms |

Freedom sans fireworks looms

Geraldine Haldner and Matt Zalaznick

While Avon and Minturn town officials won’t make a final decision to ax their colorful explosives shows until one week before Independence Day, Vail, Eagle and Gypsum have canceled their fireworks displays altogether.

“Right now, fireworks don’t look like a very good idea if we don’t get a lot of rain,” Avon Town Manager Bill Efting said. “But this way, we can still pull it off if we do get some rain.”

Avon’s fireworks display draws tens of thousands of spectators from the valley and throughout the state.

Efting said there remains a slim chance that fireworks – deployed in relative safety over Nottingham Lake – will take place in Avon on the Fourth of July.

“There’s about a five percent chance we’ll have fireworks,” Efting said. “We’re not saying “no’ today.”

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Likewise, Minturn will hold off until June 26 on a decision whether to call off its fireworks show, scheduled for July 5 – though the outlook is dim.

“It doesn’t look favorable,” said Minturn Police Chief Lorenzo Martinez. “But we decided to do the same as Avon. Hold off for now and maybe do a rain dance and then look at it again nine days before the Fourth.”

Charles Moore, chief of the Eagle River Fire Protection District, which provides fire suppression coverage for Minturn and Avon, said he has advised both towns against having fireworks shows in part to be good role models to others in a time when even the smallest spark can lead to a fire storm.

“We’ll still have fun. They can still have entertainment and festivities. But we don’t need need any man-made fires right now,” Moore said. “No bottle rockets, no sparklers, no fireworks, no.”

While fireworks may not be part of Independence Day celebrations this year, all towns will go ahead with their traditional festivities, such as community picnics, concerts and parades.

Vail’s decision to cancel its fireworks display three weeks ahead of schedule – traditionally the “no” or “go” order is given one week before Fourth of July – wasn’t an easy one to make, said Vail Fire Chief John Gulick, who asked town officials to cancel the fireworks and become the first town in the state to do so Tuesday.

By Wednesday other valley municipalities had followed suit, including Eagle and Gypsum, which have canceled a joint fireworks show at the Eagle County Fairgrounds due to the persistently extreme fire danger.

“It had no idea I’d be the first one,” Gulick said Wednesday. “But if something gets going, it is going to be big and go quick. We just don’t want to be the fools that started a huge fire.”

Gulick said the dry conditions and lack of precipitation in the forecast led him to ask the town to cancel the fireworks – a step last taken in 1998.

“The surrounding forest land is so dry, the ground is really like corn flakes when you walk on it. We want everybody who is here for the Fourth to be safe and enjoy themselves,” Gulick said.

Aside from the arid conditions, Efting, Gulick and Moore agreed that the valley’s firefighters are busy enough battling wildfires elsewhere in the region – as many as 16 local firefighters at any one time have been working at the Coal Seam Fire west of Glenwood Springs.

A man-made fireworks emergency around the Fourth of July could stretch them disastrously thin – and chances are some personal fireworks display somewhere in the county will.

By the way, there’s a state-wide ban on any kind of personal fireworks.

“We need to stress that all that stuff is banned and that there is a zero tolerance attitude,” said Moore. “Even something as small as a firecracker will get you in trouble this summer.”

“I’m sure people understand the severity of our conditions,” said Gulick. “We just have to keep begging people to refrain from shooting off fireworks, because the consequences could be terrible.”

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