FIREWORKS SHOWS: CANCELATION REASONS
The skies over a scattering of Western U.S. cities will stay dark for the third consecutive Fourth of July as some major fireworks displays are canceled again this year. Reasons include wildfire concerns amid dry weather, staffing, and supply chain issues.
Phoenix canceled its three major Independence Day displays because it couldn’t obtain professional-grade fireworks. Shows in several other cities around Phoenix are still on.
“Unless you’re in a really remote area where that was the only show, most people will be able to find a show nearby,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Overseas shipping, transportation in the U.S., rising insurance costs, and labor shortages led to the canceled displays. Demand for fireworks shows at concerts, stadiums, and the Fourth of July holiday absent during the first two years of the pandemic also play a role.
“The demand is so high that it’s almost like a perfect storm,” Heckman said, adding that not having enough crew to work the shows or rental trucks to transport materials has added to the crunch.
China produces most of the professional-grade fireworks that shoot up into the air and produce colorful, dazzling bursts in various shapes. The shortage is with congestion at US ports; not in the manufacturing sector.
Heckman said some companies recently chartered about a dozen vessels, each carrying 200-250 containers of consumer-grade fireworks, and shipped them to ports in Alabama and Louisiana to free up space at ports on the West Coast.
THREAT OF WILDFIRES
Other cities around the country halted the displays because of the threat of wildfire. Flagstaff in northern Arizona will carry out its annual Independence Day parade through the city’s historic downtown, but a new laser light show will replace the standard pyrotechnic display.
Three large wildfires skirted the mountainous city this spring alone, prompting hundreds of people to evacuate, closing down a major highway and destroying some homes.
“The decision was made early because we wanted people to be able to make plans with their families,” said Flagstaff city spokesperson Sarah Langley.
Many local jurisdictions banned the use of fireworks amid a punishing drought, even with an early start of the annual rainy season that brought some flooding in the U.S. Southwest. Fireworks are prohibited in national forests.
A popular northern San Joaquin Valley fireworks show that in pre-pandemic times brought tens of thousands of people to Lake Don Pedro, California, also was canceled because of drought concerns, including the lake’s projected low level.
“The safety of our guests and being good stewards of the land entrusted to us are our highest priorities,” the Don Pedro Recreation Agency said in a statement.
Lompoc on California’s central coast and Castle Rock in Colorado canceled their pyrotechnic displays over worries about wildfires. Still, an Independence Eve fireworks show with live music by the Colorado Symphony remains as planned for July 3 at Denver’s Civic Center Park.
FIREWORKS SHOWS IN OTHER CITIES
In New Mexico, the most destructive wildfire season in modern history won’t stop that state’s major cities. Albuquerque and Santa Fe will hold Fourth of July fireworks displays under fire department supervision.
The Southgate Mall in Missoula, Montana canceled its annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show without giving a reason.
Elsewhere in the U.S., some North Carolina towns canceled displays after a recent fireworks-related explosion killed a man on a small farm and a large cache of fireworks was destroyed in a related fire.
Staff shortages and construction at a nearby park led Minneapolis to cancel the fireworks display over the Mississippi River.
Those who plan to light up consumer-grade fireworks like bottle rockets, firecrackers, and ground-level fountains at home can expect to pay more for them. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that costs are up 35% across the industry.
Fire officials in some cities worry that the cancelations could prompt the use of consumer-grade fireworks.
“We are typically worried about exposure of sparks and fire to homes and dry brush,” said Phoenix Fire spokesperson Capt. Evan Gammage. “We get so many calls around this time of year.”
This story was written by AP writers Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, contributed to this story.