Fire Chiefs: ‘If it was entirely up to just us, we would not allow fireworks at any time’
Fireworks are a problem for fire chiefs
Fireworks displays, even those put on by professionals, are a problem for fire departments. Citing the high fire danger, Prescott Fire Chief Dennis Light decided to cancel this year’s July 4th fireworks display, set to be launched from downtown.
“As a municipality, the determination to allow or not allow fireworks is incumbent upon the Fire Chief and is made based upon the factors of being able to manage the risk such activities pose,” Light said. “In our instance, it really comes down to ‘risk avoidance’ in lieu of ‘risk management.’ In the city, as the fire chief, I am called upon to make the determination and given the environmental conditions of little to no precipitation, continued hot and dry forecast, location for which fireworks were planned, and other factors, such as first responder fatigue, along with some other variables, I opted to not allow them to occur.”
But while a city’s fire chief can issue that ruling, the chief of a fire authority or fire district, which is not a part of a municipal government, cannot.
“We can and do provide input, but that’s the extent of our ability,” said Scott Freitag, chief of the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, which covers Prescott valley and Chino Valley. Those two towns still plan to hold their July 4th fireworks shows.
“We have a good working relationship with both of the communities we serve,” Freitag said.
Each presents a different level of concern when it comes to a fireworks show. Prescott Valley holds its event at Mountain Valley Park, at 8600 E. Nace Lane.
“The park grounds are generally maintained and watered leading up to the display and town crews perform additional mitigation work in the surrounding areas, including the ditches,” Freitag said. “They also water the areas more in the days leading up to the display.
“Given the area preparation and mitigation efforts, I do not have a high level of concern about a fire problem, he said.
However, Freitag is not as confident about the show in Chino Valley, “because of the venue they use, given current fuel moisture levels and the potential for wind.”
He said he’s spoken with Town Manager Cecilia Grittman, and they discussed his concerns in detail.
“The town will adjust closer to the event should the wind become an issue, or if our (fire) crews are not available to provide additional protection due to call volume,” he said.
“That said, they are using a field without a lot of fuels and will also perform additional mitigation efforts in advance. While I have more concern in Chino, I believe they are able to provide a level of control and containment,” said Freitag.
Grittman said the decision to launch the fireworks from Community Center Park is still up in the air and could go either way as July 4 approaches.
Neither chief is a fan of fireworks in general.
“We likely can both agree that if it was entirely up just us, we would not allow fireworks at any time,” Light said. “Historically, they are a leading cause of injuries and deaths at this time of year and present a risk to the public’s safety.”
Freitag said, “The problem Dennis and I have, along with our (police) partners, is that use of fireworks is illegal, but they’re sold legally in retail outlets. There is no real way for us to control any of that.”
As for his concerns about the professional shows, he said, “I would much rather see a professional show in an environment that has been prepped and has some level of control rather than individuals shooting off fireworks illegally in unmitigated and uncontrolled surroundings.”