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July 4 Fireworks Spark Wildfire Fears as Some Cities Replace Them With Drones

As Americans gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, hot and dry conditions across much of the country are prompting fears that fireworks could spark wildfires — and some cities are even opting to replace traditional displays with drone light shows.

Among them: Boulder, Colo., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Salt Lake City.

“As temperatures rise and fire danger increases, we must be conscientious of both our air quality and the potential for wildfires,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said last week.

“The shift from traditional fireworks to a laser light show was the responsible action to take due to extreme fire risk with the dry and hot conditions,” Flagstaff City Manager Greg Clifton said in a press release. “It is extremely important to have a safe celebration and be fire aware. And it is also important to have a yearly celebration that we can all anticipate and plan on.”

Except for the pandemic, Boulder had put on a Fourth of July fireworks show annually since 1941. Not this year.

“The shift from traditional fireworks to drones was not an easy decision and based on a number of factors, including increased fire danger fueled by climate change,” the city explained. “While the show is going to be a bit different, it promises to be a fantastic show.”

‘Illegal’ firework sparks brush fire in Arizona

The risk of wildfires sparked by fireworks is real, particularly in the drought-stricken West.

During a planned fireworks display in Prescott, Ariz., on Saturday, a firework that was set off by a spectator caused a brush fire. When firefighters arrived, the blaze was already half an acre in size, but they were able to extinguish it with help from the U.S. Forest Service.

“Our forests, especially up here in Prescott, and the surrounding areas, all around, can be just dry tinderboxes,” Jeff Jones, a firefighter with the Prescott Fire Department, told Fox affiliate KSAZ in Phoenix, which has not had measurable rain in more than 100 days.

“We haven’t had rain in the recent past, and they’re so dry,” Jones said. “The wrong firework going off at the wrong time can end up being disastrous.”

“Illegal fireworks use it’s just that … Illegal,” the fire department said in a statement. “The wrong day, with the wrong wind combined with the wrong humidity could be disastrous for our forests. Remember … Carelessness is the greatest source of forest fires in our community!”

Blazes sparked by fireworks can be costly. In 2021, according to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 12,000 fires were started by fireworks, including 2,082 structure fires, 316 vehicle fires and 9,866 “outside and other fires,” causing dozens of civilian injuries and $59 million in property damage.

Replacing fireworks with … Silly String?

Meanwhile, encouraging people to choose alternatives to traditional Fourth of July fireworks has led to some backlash.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico urged residents to “consider celebrating with safer, alternative methods,” including glow sticks, noisemakers and “red, white and blue Silly String.”

Environmentalists balked at the idea that federal land managers would suggest using aerosol cans of sticky party string in the outdoors.

“These are alternatives for children and young people to do in lieu of fireworks in their neighborhood or on their property. That way, we’d like to keep things contained to your property and your neighborhood,” George Ducker, wildfire prevention and communications coordinator with the New Mexico Forest Service, told the Associated Press. “We’re certainly not advocating folks go out into the forest and, you know, shoot off Silly String.”

Source : Yahoo!