Once again, it looks like many of Colorado’s communities are headed toward a Fourth of July without fireworks.
Last year, arguably Colorado’s worst ever for wildfires, saw a statewide burning ban that prohibited fireworks. Already this year, fires have scorched tens of thousands of acres throughout the state.
No statewide ban has been put in place as of yet, but make no mistake, Colorado is in emergency mode. In many counties, officials have taken common-sense, precautionary measures and instituted burning rules that, among other things, outlaw personal use and professional displays of fireworks.
Unless the skies open up immediately and consistently, these bans are likely to remain in place at least through July 4. For many, that means, like last year, celebrating the holiday without one of our nation’s most treasured traditions.
Yes, fireworks are fun. They have come to be seen as a sparkling, brilliant reminder of our independence. But much of Colorado is too dry, the conditions too ripe for danger, to risk it.
We see this as a necessary inconvenience. Moreover, we encourage residents to be diligent in following whatever restrictions their county or municipality has imposed. A single, carelessly discarded cigarette has been known to start a major wildfire. Certainly, flaming objects designed to explode in the air have the potential to create at least as much havoc.
Consider some statistics from the National Fire Protection Association: In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,8000 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage. In a normal year, more fires are reported on July 4 than on any other day, and fireworks are the major culprit, according to the association.
Imagine the potential for disaster if errant fireworks landed in a wooded area of Colorado. It’s not worth the risk for a few minutes of viewing pleasure.
And if doing the right thing for Coloradans’ safety isn’t enough, consider the potential damage to a scofflaw’s wallet. In unincorporated Douglas County, for example, setting off fireworks comes with up to a $1,000 fine. We could make a case that fines should be even stiffer.
Independence Day is rooted in major sacrifice. Eating hot dogs and enjoying the company of family and friends without fireworks is a rather small one.