WHITE MOUNTAINS — Several White Mountain communities are debating whether they will cancel their Independence Day fireworks displays, due to dangerously dry conditions. While hot and windy weather has dominated the area, showers are in the weekend forecast. But it may not provide enough moisture to prevent the cancellation of one of summer’s most iconic events.
Show Low City Clerk Ann Kurasaki said in a press release this week that City Manager Ed Muder is considering whether or not to cancel the traditional and popular July 4 fireworks show this year. The event that draws throngs of people to town could be shuttered due to fire danger; the city is in in Stage 3 fire restrictions along with nearly every other local community.
“The show will be held only if public safety officials deem conditions have improved. A final notice will be posted by 5 p.m. Monday, July 2, to the city website at showlowaz.gov, Show Low Television (cable channels 56 and 1056) and the electronic marquee at the intersection of the Deuce of Clubs and Central Avenue. Announcements also will be sent to the local newspaper, radio stations and other media outlets,” Muder said.
No other Fourth of July activities other than the fireworks show is under consideration for cancelation.
“All other city-sponsored July 4th events will proceed as planned. Everyone is invited to enjoy the popular parade along the Deuce of Clubs beginning at 9 a.m., the wet zone with activities for all ages at Frontier Fields located at 600 N. 9th Place immediately following the parade, and the day-long FreedomFest celebration at the Show Low High School football complex located at 500 W. Old Linden Road beginning at 3 p.m. FreedomFest features food vendors, Fun Zone (with rides, games and activities) and live musical performances by Fools Hollow Band, 415Edward, Arizona Blacktop and headliner Sir Harrison Band,” the press release stated.
The small community of Concho in Apache County is also in countywide stage 3 fire restrictions.
There have not been fireworks shows in Concho for three years now, said interim volunteer Fire Chief Craig Schultz.
He said the fire department is the entity that helps schedule shows and sets off fireworks adding that they have not done so for three years on the Fourth of July and will not have a show again this year.
“Even if we did have one it would be canceled because the danger at this time of just one star spark getting away and starting a fire is just too great,” he said.
Taylor-Snowflake Fire and Medical Department Chief Bill “Willie” Nelson said they are still holding their June 30 fireworks show at the rodeo grounds. They start around 9 p.m. following the 7 p.m. rodeo.
Nelson said that while the vast majority of local communities are in stage 3 fire restrictions, one of the reasons Taylor officials are still planning to have a fireworks celebration of the Fourth of July is in part because they are only in Stage 1 restrictions.
The other reasons include that Nelson is going to have crews on watch monitoring the fallout from the fireworks show, that the fallout zone around the rodeo grounds is developed land with plenty of irrigation, that fireworks present a different fire potential than burning debris or vegetation, and that Snowflake-Taylor is not in a pine forest like a lot of local communities.
“A spark (from fireworks) can still drift but fireworks are designed to burn and burn out quickly,” Nelson said. “And we have a safe fallout zone. Also where we set off the fireworks is in the middle of three baseball fields at the rodeo grounds and there is the parking lot, the (concrete and brick) buildings and lots of green grass.”
What did Nelson say would trigger cancelation of the show?
“If there were a condition that we felt creates an unsafe environment we would cancel the show or correct the condition,” he said.
But he did not foresee anything that would cause Taylor or Snowflake to go into higher fire restrictions by tomorrow.
Alpine was considering canceling their Saturday, July 7 fireworks show in light of current conditions.
But with the possibility of rain today and tomorrow it is still a go at the rodeo grounds starting at 8:30 p.m. July 7
Over in Heber-Overgaard, a five-member community board decides each year whether or not to have fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Heber-Overgaard Chamber of Commerce Manager Jessie Carlson said because of current conditions there is a very real chance the fireworks show planned for 9 p.m. at Mogollon High School could be canceled in the interest of fire safety.
“We are hoping for rain (Friday and/or Saturday) but the show could be canceled as late as the day before if no rain falls,” Carlson said adding that right now the fireworks are still a go.
The fireworks show in Round Valley at the Springerville airport is still on.
Springerville Fire Chief Max Sadler said they have been prepping the airport and surrounding grounds since January and that it is safe to have a fireworks show.
He said they have a large enough area with little vegetation, meaning there is virtually nothing to catch fire from an errant spark from fireworks.
He said he will also have firefighters on-site as a precaution.
The show starts between 8:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, July 4 and is free to the public.