Originally Published: July 6, 2006 4 a.m.
PRESCOTT While Tuesday's rainstorm apparently had little effect on the celebratory mood at Prescott's July 4 celebration, it did dampen the might of the fireworks display.
City officials reported Wednesday that hundreds of the shells in the Tuesday evening fireworks display failed to go off because of moisture from the afternoon thunderstorm.
"There were about 400 shells (out of a total of 2,220) that didn't go off," said Becky Garvin, special events coordinator for the city. In addition, she said, a number of the shells that did go off did not reach their intended height.
The problem stemmed from the fierce rainstorm that hit the area Tuesday afternoon. Garvin said rainwater got into the fireworks tubes and saturated some of the fuses.
While the fireworks company, Lantis Fireworks and Laser Productions, had tarps covering portions of the fireworks, Garvin said the wind blew some of them away, and some did not have adequate tarp coverings to begin with.
Along with lessening the impact of the show, the under-performing shells also caused additional concern for the firefighters who were on hand at the show.
Fire Chief Darrell Willis pointed out that when the shells do not go as high as intended, they have more potential for causing fires on the ground.
Indeed, Fire Marshal Ted Galde said the moisture in the mortars caused some "ground bursts and low-level bursts" of the fireworks.
Even so, Willis said, the afternoon precipitation helped to saturate the ground and keep down the potential for fires. While one small fire did start just south of the "fall-out area" at Kuebler Field, Willis said, "It was no problem, because the ground was so wet from the rain." The grass fire ultimately burned an area of about five feet by five feet, he said.
Willis explained that the fireworks company reserves a fall-out area that extends 700 feet in all directions from where it is detonating the fireworks. The company allows no unauthorized people in that area.
About 20 firefighters were on hand at the July 4 event, five of whom were at the fall-out area.
Despite the failure of some of the fireworks, Garvin said all of the public comments she has received about the event have been positive. More than 8,000 people attended the event, she said more than any other year.
"It was still a great show," she said of the approximately half-hour-long fireworks display. "But it would have been phenomenal (if all of the shells had worked correctly)."
Meanwhile, Garvin said she would be working with the fireworks company to rectify the situation. "I'm there to make sure the city gets what it paid for," Garvin said, adding that she might try to arrange for the company to add a fireworks component at Prescott's annual Christmas celebration.
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