Quantcast

Epic Drought Blamed for Ban on Fireworks in Bone-Dry States

Climate

Gathering in a local park with neighbors to watch city-sponsored fireworks or shooting off (sometimes illegal) fireworks in the backyard have become a time-honored way of celebrating the 4th.

People love fireworks displays, but they always present a danger of starting uncontrolled fires.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

But thanks to the ongoing drought, some communities on the west coast have eliminated their city-sponsored fireworks displays while many more have clamped down on personal fireworks. And fire departments across the country are on high alert over concern that illegal fireworks could fuel brush fires that turn into major wildfires, even as more states lift bans on the sales of fireworks to private individuals, including, most recently, Georgia and Ohio.

With an earlier than usual wildfire season already giving firefighters an extra workload, communities in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have nixed these civil displays of patriotism.

With Alaska currently ravaged by drought-fueled wildfires, the state's largest city, Anchorage, has cancelled its fireworks even though the state fire marshall's statewide ban on fireworks sales has been lifted following cooler weather and rains.

Cupertino, California, outside San Jose in the Bay area, will also go dark this year. With many cities in that area cutting their displays following the 2008 recession, Cupertino was one of the few still hosting such a show. Its reason for cancellation was drought-related but not wildfire-related: it's trying to conserve water. The high school, where the fireworks take place, switched to artificial turf 10 years ago to save water. But 100,000 gallons of water is needed to spray on the turf to prevent falling ashes from turning the turf into a pile of burning plastic.

City spokesman Rick Kitson said if the field was still real grass, the fireworks probably would have gone on.

"Because we’ve done the right thing, the total use of water becomes more conspicuous,” said Kitson. “You’ve got to hose down the plastic before and a lot afterward.”

Elsewhere in California, Kern County has banned displays in public parks and Danville has banned all fireworks, including those childhood staples of the 4th, sparklers.

"With the drought leaving the hills and yards in Danville extremely dry, it could potentially be very dangerous to be out and using fireworks this week," said Lt. Allan Shields of the Danville Police Department. "In Contra Costa County alone, firefighters respond to several fires per year, directly attributable to fireworks."

Los Angeles and San Francisco will still host displays. Bass Lake at the entrance to Yosemite National Park will be doing a laser light show in place of its usual fireworks display.

"There is no replacement for the fireworks show," said Michelle Miller, secretary of the Bass Lake Chamber. "But we believe the laser light show will be a fun and unique alternative, and a great option considering the current fire risks."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the law doesn't allow a statewide fireworks ban. Such a ban is not on the list of things the governor can prohibit after declaring a state of emergency, as Inslee did last month due to wildfire danger, although many communities have banned personal fireworks. Some cities, including Seattle, will still sponsor civic shows. But in the small rural timber community of Forks, the official display was cancelled due to unusually dry conditions.

Portland, Oregon's fire chief Erin Janssen issued a burn ban a week before the holiday that included legal fireworks due to hot, windy weather conditions, but lifted the ban the following day.

"I suggest to show our patriotism, fly U.S. flags, not fireworks," said Janssens.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also urged caution.

"I encourage Oregonians to be aware and considerate of our state's natural beauty, neighbors and pets before deciding on when and where you choose to light fireworks," said Gov. Brown.

About 18,000 fires a year are reported to have been started by fireworks, with a majority of those occurring during the 4th of July holiday. And while most of those are small and quickly extinguished, cities and firefighters fear drought conditions could cause more of them to spread.

"Fireworks are not only dangerous, but of course due to their very nature can spark fires from dying embers reaching the dried-out vegetation," said AccuWeather Western weather expert Ken Clark. "This is heightened during periods of droughts, especially in the historic drought California is now in."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

300+ Wildfires Rage in Alaska

Epic Drought Brings Fear of Worst Wildfire Season Yet

5 Signs the California Drought Could Get Worse

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less