Fireworks on the Fourth of July are an American tradition and a happy one. Like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, they are a reminder of home, family and good times.
It should be remembered, however, that Independence Day is about pride, freedom and shared national purpose – even in times of political division. It is not actually a celebration of pyrotechnics.
With that, residents of Southwest Colorado should be understanding if this year’s Fourth of July comes and goes without fireworks. The danger of wildfire is extreme, the costs are already high, and firefighters are spread thin.
Under the terms of the statewide fire ban issued June 14 by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, all fireworks are banned, except “commercial, professional and municipal fireworks displays where specific written approval has been granted by the sheriff of the county in which the fireworks display is to occur.”
At this writing, it seems La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard will authorize fireworks displays planned for Bayfield, Vallecito and Durango. The key there would appear to be the word “professional,” in this case the firefighters who attend to and put on the fireworks.
We trust his judgment – and that of the firefighters and emergency personnel whose counsel he most likely sought. That decision and that advice, however, could also change if conditions worsen or conditions change.
Different locations, of course, present different considerations. At Vallecito, the fireworks are shot out over the lake, minimizing the danger of fire. In Silverton, which has already decided to cancel its fireworks display, the size of the town and its distance from other communities means resources to deal with any fire are severely limited. Bayfield’s fireworks go off over the high school athletic field and its sprinklers.
Durango has still another set of circumstances. But then, the sheriff’s fire ban exemption is just that. There is no requirement that fireworks be put on, and if city officials are uncomfortable with having the display they should act accordingly.
Supporting that is another passage from Hickenlooper’s order. It reads: “Should a wildfire occur as a result of the granting of an exemption to this order, the state of Colorado may, and likely would, deny access to state funds to pay for the costs of such a wildfire.
Fireworks are fun. Wildfire is not. No one should be criticized for prudence at a time like this.