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The cold, hard facts: Fireworks proving too hot to handle

If it’s too hot for fireworks, drone shows can be pretty cool. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Dear Action Line: Why aren’t we having fireworks in Durango? It has been a very, very wet winter and spring. Fourth of July without fireworks just doesn’t feel like Fourth of July. – All Fired Up

Dear Fired Up: It’s tough. You’ve been holding in your “oohs” and “aahs” now for several years. Fireworks on the Fourth used to be an American, God-given right. Now it seems that’s been taken away. Here in Durango, fireworks have been happening whenever there’s no pandemic and no drought. Which is hardly ever. Yep, these are tough, tough times.

But Action Lines drones on and on. Drones on and on.

Reverse that, and it’s on and on with drones. On and on with drones.

There is such symmetry in life. Just no live fireworks from near the cemetery.

When the city’s fireworks are real, they’re spectacular. We just haven’t gotten a peek for several years. The problem is basically that they’ve become too hot to handle. And too unpredictable. We should let city Parks and Recreation Director Ture Nycum and Community Events Administrator Ellen Babers explain.

In a six-year stretch from 2016 to 2021, fireworks were scheduled and canceled four times. The show went on only in 2016 and 2019. (In 2018 the already purchased fireworks were launched on Veterans Day, Babers pointed out.)

“After the 2019 fireworks, the Durango Fire department declined to be the fireworks team (the group responsible for shooting off the fireworks), due to liability and the ever-increasing dryness of our area,” Nycum said.

Durango tried to contract with an outside fireworks company, but they need a go/no-go decision eight to 10 weeks before an event, so that they can order the materials, he explained. That put the city in a bind.

“The city consults with the Durango Fire Protection District and reviews the weather predictions closely. At that decision point (late April/early May), the city is committed to the full cost of the show,” he said. “We can, of course, cancel the show at the last minute due to increasing dryness, but we cannot get our money back.”

The city worked with a fireworks display company in spring 2022 on a possible “close-proximity” fireworks show, which would be easier to manage for several reasons, including fire hazards. But the viewing range would be smaller.

“We tested them in two locations, for both excitement value and safety of nearby buildings and spectators,” Nycum said. “The close-proximity fireworks were exciting and an acceptable alternative. However, we were not successful in identifying a location where many people could see and enjoy them.”

So the decision was made in 2022 for a safer, alternate display, using choreographed drones with colored lights that make changing patterns and shapes in the sky. The drones are coming back to Durango in 2023, brought to you by Pixis Drones out of Alexandria, Viriginia. Pixis has some high-powered clients, including NASCAR, Nike and the NBA. Action Line requests that part of the Durango drone show should replicate Nikola Jokic swishing one of those ridiculous, high-arcing three-pointers that helped your Denver Nuggets to the NBA title. Ten dollar bonus if the defender is LeBron.

Oops. There goes Action Line droning on again.

Drone shows have a four-month minimum lead time, Nycum said, and many companies are booked nine to 12 months in advance.

“With this timeframe, if the Durango area is too dry in late April/early May, it is too late to pivot from a fireworks show to a drone show. … Staff will annually re-visit the decision to determine if a change may be needed,” Nycum said.

So for now, it’s on and on with drones.

Which crowbar?

Action Line made an off-hand reference last week to the “proper” crowbar needed to break into a building. A reader was curious, and asked, “What is a ‘proper’ crowbar?”

Of course, Action Line has never used a crowbar, or pry bar, or wrecking bar, or any such device to enter a locked building. Action Line knows nothing about these things.

Nothing, whatsoever.

If Action Line was to use a crowbar, it would be of the same type used to break into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s file cabinet in 1971 in Beverly Hills, California. That worked out so well for everyone involved – the “Plumbers,” President Nixon, our country in general.

The famous file cabinet, by the way, is on display in “The American Presidency” exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Nobody knows what happened to the crowbar, especially Action Line.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. If you really need a big, live fireworks show, Silverton is hosting its annual extravaganza, and Bayfield will have a display at Joe Stephenson Park.

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