City cancels July 4th display

Fire chief said spark fire risk too great

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council said it was not willing to risk a spectacular fire for a fireworks spectacle.

In light of Gov. Bill Owens' executive order banning the sale and use of fireworks and after a dire report from Assistant Fire Chief Bob Struble, the council decided not to have a Fourth of July fireworks display.

"The conditions that we have are so severe, if we get some spark fires, which occur every year, we might not be able to control them," Struble said.

Struble told the council at Tuesday's meeting that it would take three to four weeks of daily rain before the conditions would be safe for fireworks.

Earlier this week, Owens declared a statewide ban on open burning and the sale and use of fireworks. His ban did not include professional commercial fireworks displays.

"Certainly our fireworks are very famous. People from all over the Front Range come up to see them," City Council President Kathy Connell said. "But we need to be very straightforward in that if we do (a fireworks display), a fire could result and we don't want to be responsible for those costs."

The Fourth of July holiday draws many tourists to Steamboat, including more than 10,000 people who are expected to attend the July 3 and 4 concerts known as the Independence Incident.

Although the city has already ordered the fireworks, it does not need to use them for the July 4 celebration.

They could be used for the annual Labor Day celebration or Winter Carnival, council members said.

The question of whether the city was going to have a fireworks display came up earlier this year.

In April, the city voted to allocate $10,000 for fireworks after postponing the decision during its fall budget talks.

Fireworks were one of a handful of items the council decided to hold out of the budget as it went into a severe cost-saving mode after Sept. 11.

Along with supporting Owens' ban, the council directed City Attorney Tony Lettunich to draw up an emergency ordinance that would ban outside smoking, open burning and the sale and use of fireworks.

Because it is an emergency ordinance, the law would only have to be enacted by one reading. It is expected to come before the council next Tuesday.

The council also discussed including outside smoking in the fire prevention list and noted that discarded cigarettes at sporting fields or in hotel parking lots could be dangerous.

Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said she would like signs posted in the areas that prohibit smoking asking visitors not to smoke because of the high fire danger.

Struble said the area's firefighting resources are limited during this dry season and indicators for wildfire are well beyond high for the area.

Currently, Routt County is in a "Stage 1" mode, which limits open burnings in state forest areas. However, it could progress to "Stage 2," which prohibits fires on designated campgrounds.

A "Stage 3" is also possible, which would be a total closure of all forest land.

With a drought for the past three to four years, Struble said it would take two wet summers to recover from the dry conditions.

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