Fire follows fireworks show

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— A 10-by-20-foot blaze erupted on Howelsen Hill shortly after the city's annual Fourth of July fireworks show ended Friday; however, fire officials said the display did not cause the fire.

Rather, Bob Struble of the Steamboat Springs Fire Department said fireworks set off by private citizens likely were the source of the fire, which was discovered at 11:15 p.m. as spectators were leaving the fireworks show. Struble said the fire department has names of possible suspects.

Crews standing by at the fire department responded in minutes. The fire was put out within half an hour.

Drought conditions and concerns about wildfire forced officials to cancel last year's show. The launch area for this year's show on Howelsen Hill had been watered intermittently since Tuesday, Struble said. The area where the fire occurred -- the western face of the hill -- had not been watered.

"It's drier than people think," Struble said prior to the show. Snow-making machines were set up on Howelsen Hill in case of fire.

Despite the ending, the show's return to Steamboat after the one-year layoff was, by most accounts, a rousing success. Cheers could be heard throughout downtown Steam-boat Springs as the fireworks began.

"They just pulled the plug on everything (last year,)" Littleton resident Prudence Schnell said.

Schnell and her husband were visiting Steamboat Springs with a camping group this year. She was relieved that the show went on. She sat eagerly alongside the Yampa River, dressed in an American flag sweater.

"We're really looking forward to seeing the fireworks," she said prior to the show. "I think it's going to be a beautiful night. There are no clouds in the sky, and the stars will be out."

She said it was a shame that most fireworks were canceled in the state last year.

"People didn't get to show their patriotism," she said. "I just love the Fourth of July."

Small fireworks could be seen on side streets all over downtown before the show began at around 10:15 p.m.

The harmonic band The Lone Survivors played at the Yacht Club prior to the show as well. People surrounding the restaurant in all directions could hear the music, which continued until the fireworks began.

Radio station KBCR conducted a simulcast during the fireworks show, playing patriotic songs including the "Star Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful." Many spectators sang along as they watched the fireworks. The show lasted for about 20 minutes.

"It was a little bright at times," Chandra Allred said. "I had my sunglasses on."

Allred watched the fireworks from Howelsen Hill.

"We liked the booms," Allred's friend Leslie Scifres said. "It was so loud it shook your seat."

The two are living in Steamboat Springs for the summer. "We thoroughly enjoyed it," Scifres said.


To reach Erin Ragan call 871-4232 or e-mail intern@steamboatpilot.com

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