Dozens of communities in drought-stricken areas are scrapping public fireworks displays and cracking down on backyard pyrotechnics to reduce the risk of fires.
"From a fire standpoint and a safety standpoint, it was an easy call," Burbank Fire Chief Tracy Pansini says. He recommended calling off fireworks at the Starlight Bowl because they're launched from a mountainside covered with vegetation that's "all dead."
It's the only time Burbank's fireworks have been canceled since they were first held at the amphitheater in 1994. "Ticket sales are pretty slow" for the night's events, says city recreation supervisor Cathryn Villalobos. "People are saying, 'If you're not having fireworks, we're not coming.' " Elsewhere:
• Alabaster, Ala., canceled its public fireworks and Fire Chief Frank Matherson might propose at a City Council meeting Monday that all fireworks be prohibited.
"Most people will comply because they see how dry it is," he says. Water restrictions, including a ban on watering lawns, make fireworks even more risky, he says.
• A 120-day ban on fireworks in Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest took effect Tuesday, says fire management officer Mitch Gandy. The 700,000-acre forest is popular with families with their own fireworks. It's the first ban since 1999.
"We've had 70 fires so far this year," Gandy says. "Fireworks land in the leaves and set fires, which is potentially very dangerous." The fine for possessing or igniting fireworks: $75.
• In Madison, Ala., public fireworks were canceled so firefighters can focus on possible fires from illegal but rampant private fireworks. "We're worried about tying up the manpower because we're afraid we'll be busy elsewhere," Fire Chief Ralph Cobb says.
• The July Fourth parade and festival are still on in Woodstock, but residents worried about dry conditions wrote to the city recommending that the fireworks be postponed, says city community affairs director Donna Godfrey.
There have been a record number of fire danger warnings this year, Fire Marshal Dave Soumas says. The official fireworks always cause "little spot fires" that people don't see, he says. "Imagine how dry it is, and maybe we can't keep those contained."
His advice to anyone planning fireworks: "Have adult supervision and a hose or fire extinguisher in the area."