Minturn misses its July 4 fireworks | VailDaily.com
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Minturn misses its July 4 fireworks

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

MINTURN ” Minturn may have to look for a better spot if it wants to have fireworks in the future.

“I would hope that if they really, truly wanted fireworks, then they’d look for someplace else,” said John Willson, deputy chief of operations for the Eagle River Fire Protection District.

More than a month ago, the town decided not to shoot off fireworks during this year’s July Fourth celebration after fire officials discouraged the display. It was a long-time tradition in Minturn until recent years.

The move has some residents wondering whether the sight of fireworks shooting off toward the hills east of U.S. Highway 24 will be relegated to the past.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Eagle River Fire has told the town to forgo fireworks for its July Fourth celebration, Town Councilwoman Shelley Bellm said.

“Minturn is no longer being allowed to shoot off fireworks,” she said.

Bellm said Minturn residents have told her they were upset about this year’s cancellation.

In the past, fire officials have advised the town to cancel fireworks shortly before July Fourth celebrations. Instead of lighting them off last year in July, the town shot off its unused July Fourth fireworks during its St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

“Citizens believe (Eagle River fire officials) don’t want to put the resources into Minturn,” she said.

Some residents questioned the timing of fire officials’ request to stop the July fireworks display.

“It would be hard to make a decision when it was snowing outside,” said Darla Goodell, owner of the Turntable Restaurant and Hotel.

Eagle River Fire officials said they encouraged the town not to do fireworks, traditionally shot into a dry, west-facing hill that gets a great deal of sun and where brush presents fire danger. To shoot fireworks there risks the lives of firefighters, who have had to put out fires on the hill during past displays, Willson said.

Willson said July has been historically dry, and fire officials accurately predicted recent dry weather. Heavy snow this year in Minturn didn’t make a difference: The tall grass and brush on the hill could still burn, he said.

“Even if it rained a couple days, it’s not a good site for fireworks,” Willson said.

Fireworks displays in Avon, Eagle and Vail are done in safer places, he said. In Avon, they’re shot over Nottingham Lake, and in Eagle, over a mowed grass field. The town of Vail’s fireworks are shot over Vail Mountain, which firefighters can access more easily than they can Minturn’s hills, he said.

Actions firefighters would have to take to prevent fires on the steep hills would be too costly, and that’s not fair to other taxpayers in the district, he said.

Patty Bidez, a 22-year Minturn resident, called the lack of fireworks displays “disappointing,” and she said she was surprised that Eagle River Fire chiefs thought firefighters “wouldn’t be able to handle it.” Volunteer firefighters used to put fires out that started on the hill with ease, she said.

In the past, Minturn residents went to barbecues and parties before the fireworks, and out-of-towners came to eat in Minturn’s restaurants. People also gathered for pie-eating contests and other games in the parking lot behind Chili Willy’s.

“It was a very good community activity,” she said.

Willson said the safety of Eagle River firefighters is far more important than a short fireworks display, especially when other shows are held nearby in Vail and Avon.

“For a 15-minute show, it’s just not worth it,” he said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.


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