Vail Valley towns, first responders ready for huge Fourth of July crowds | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley towns, first responders ready for huge Fourth of July crowds

Rick Spitzer captured this image of the Salute to the USA fireworks above Avon's Harry A. Nottingham Park in 2013. The Eagle River Fire Protection District advises that the best way to protect your family is to not use any fireworks at home. Instead, attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.
Rick Spitzer | Daily file photo |

EAGLE COUNTY — Americans love a good party and the Fourth of July is one of our best.

We eat, we relax, we catch up with old friends; the decorations are not complicated and we don’t have to go shopping.

At the end of this wonderful day, stuff blows up.

That’s a good day.

“We are constantly monitoring conditions and the wildfire danger,” said Tracy LeClair, the fire district’s risk-management director. “Right now, the fire danger is high to very high, depending on where you are in the county.”

The good news is that huge crowds migrate to the Vail Valley for the Fourth of July. The better news is that we’re used to big crowds and we love it when company comes.

Where they need to be

Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak and his crew have all sorts of response plans in place. If something happens during the parade, the fireworks or other events, then they’ll have equipment and crews strategically placed so they can get where they need to be.

“If something happens, we can respond,” Novak said.

Personal fireworks of any kind are always prohibited in the town of Vail, on all U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land and at Sylvan Lake State Park.

Speaking of fireworks, they’re not anticipating canceling Vail’s fireworks display, Novak said, but they’ll watch it right up to the last minute.

The Aspen Fire Protection District canceled Aspen’s on Friday. The Snowmass fireworks were also canceled.

Plan for everything

The Vail Police Department has an Event Action Plan in place for the Fourth of July, as they do for all events. It covers everything from Friday to the close of business in the wee hours on Wednesday, said Sgt. Luke Causey with the Vail Police Department.

They even have different plans for different parts of day. That’s because — and this might not stun you — day people behave differently than night people.

The Vail police will quadruple the number of officers for each shift, Causey said, and add volunteers in police service, plus Scouts from their Explorers unit. The Mobile Communications Unit will be deployed and they’ve ramped up their medical response.

An entire team is dedicated to the Vail America Days parade, and while the parade is pretty wonderful, it attracts 10,000 people who all seem to want to drive an individual vehicle.

“The hardest thing is to tell people what to do with their cars,” Causey said.

Some concerns are bigger than others, and it’s the little people who generate the biggest worries.

“What scares us the most is little kids too close to parade floats and little feet getting rolled over,” Causey said.

As for parade people throwing water from parade floats, or people throwing water at parade floats, well …

“We’re not supposed to be throwing things. We’re supposed to be handing things. That’s why you see people walking along beside the floats, handing things to people in the crowd,” Causey said.

Not fired up, yet

For the Eagle River Fire Protection District, it’s pretty much business as usual.

“We are constantly monitoring conditions and the wildfire danger,” said Tracy LeClair, the fire district’s risk-management director. “Right now, the fire danger is high to very high, depending on where you are in the county.”

They’re increasing patrols to make sure people are as safe as possible, LeClair said.

Avon’s Salute to the USA

Avon’s Nottingham Park will host around 20,000 people for today’s 31st annual Westin Salute to the USA Presented by Slifer Smith & Frampton.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck event for the town of Avon,” said Preston Neill, with the town of Avon. “Our public works crews and police do a fantastic job.”

Parking is always an issue, but the Beaver Creek parking lots will be available, Neill said.

Avon’s music starts at 5:45 p.m., when the Lauren Michaels Band takes the stage.

The Arapahoe Philharmonic presents its Colorado Pops Orchestra at 7:45 p.m., playing a variety of popular classical favorites sprinkled with show tunes, movie themes and Western standards.

Colorado’s largest fireworks display follows after sunset with more than 10,000 shells firing above Nottingham Lake.

It’s a huge event, and occasionally some people get irate, but like fireworks, they don’t stay fired up for long.

“Our folks at the (town of Avon) do a fantastic job to alleviate their concerns,” Neill said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.



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