Thu, Sept. 19

Camp Verde fireworks canceled

You could say it was the first time in recent memory that a Camp Verde Town Council meeting didn't contain fireworks.

Vice Mayor Tony Gioia requested that canceling a town fireworks display be placed on Wednesday night's council agenda. The subject was tabled, however, as a decision had already been made by Mayor Brenda Hauser by the time of the meeting.

Prevailing opinion seems to be that conditions are simply too dry and the risk of accidentally starting a wildfire is too great.

Falling in line with the general consensus of many towns in Northern Arizona, Camp Verde leaders have decided against a public fireworks display this July 4. Their reasoning is simple: wildfires have already ravaged thousands of acres of land in Northeastern Arizona.

Gioia said earlier that he didn't feel that fireworks this year are worth the risk.

"I felt that a couple of embers might possibly ignite a fire," he said previously. After the meeting, Gioia stated, "It was called off by the mayor." Although the subject was tabled, he added, "We're not coming back to it. There will definitely be no fireworks."

Town leaders were unsure what could adequately replace the traditional fireworks display. "We're going to hold sack races for sure," Gioia said. "There will be games, music, watermelon, hot dogs, and Hauser corn." There is no admission fee for the Butler Park events, and residents are being asked to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets.

Franc Kahn, the town's public information officer, released a statement earlier that day, which confirmed the town was canceling the fireworks show.

"The cancellation will also facilitate freeing up public safety personnel that otherwise would be assigned to monitoring the fireworks event," he wrote, "thereby allowing them to patrol the community in an effort to identify persons illegally using fireworks and associated incendiaries."

The town fireworks display for the nation's birthday was scheduled to be held on the other side of the school, on a hill above Butler Park, Gioia said. However, that location is near Montezuma Castle National Monument, which is situated on dry grassland dotted with trees and shrubs that may be highly combustible following this year's drought conditions.

A deputy chief at the Camp Verde Fire Department agreed that fireworks this summer could spark a conflagration in Camp Verde. Clayton Young said he would prefer not to have any display of fireworks due to drought conditions.

Young said local firefighters have been on call round-the-clock in case they need to respond to a fire in Show Low.

Years of drought and a combined pair of wildfires are threatening July 4 fireworks in many Arizona communities. Prescott, which suffered from a 1,300-acre fire in May, has replaced its annual fireworks display with a laser light show. Fireworks in Payson, which is set in the Tonto National Forest, could also be canceled.

Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson are going ahead with their annual fireworks displays, as vegetation is sparse in those urban areas, and they are buffered by a great deal of concrete. Flagstaff, which is contiguous to the Coconino National Forest, has canceled a city fireworks show at a country club.

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