Aspen fireworks still snuffed, despite rain |

Aspen fireworks still snuffed, despite rain

It seems as if the rain held off just long enough for local officials to cancel Aspen’s Fourth of July fireworks show. No sooner had a shipment of fireworks from a factory in Minnesota been canceled on June 30 than the rains started falling. And they have been falling intermittently ever since.What that means is, for a traditionally explosive time tonight, Aspenites will have to head downvalley to Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs or New Castle, where fireworks will go on as usual.Upvalley officials said Monday the recent rain, which has fallen sporadically and heavily at times over the past four days, has not been enough to lift Pitkin County’s fire ban. Nor has there been enough precipitation to grant permits for fireworks upvalley.Aspen’s shipment of fireworks was to have come on the same truck that delivered fireworks to the Roaring Fork Club; fireworks can launch there because they fly over the club’s irrigated golf course.On June 30, when local officials predicted the area’s drought would continue through the weekend, the Aspen shipment was canceled. The much smaller Roaring Fork Club shipment reportedly was delivered on schedule.”On the Fourth of July, you’re either a champ or a chump,” declared pyrotechnics expert Tim Cottrell, a former member of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department who was in charge of Aspen’s fireworks for much of the town’s recent history. “Guess which I am.”But even if Aspen had received its fireworks shipment, Fire Chief Darryl Grob is not convinced a fireworks display over Aspen Mountain would have been safe.”My issue is that, in 10 hours, the fuel load will be right back where it was” – tinder-dry and ready to explode into a conflagration at the slightest touch of a spark.He explained that the underbrush and trees of the upper valley are completely parched after more than a month of essentially dry conditions; it would take several days to a week of steady, soaking rain to reverse that situation.”The relief has really got to be somewhat prolonged,” he said.Another problem, Grob said, is Aspen Mountain offers an explosive mix of fuels. This calls for even more caution than might otherwise be warranted.In Carbondale, for instance, fireworks are to be launched off the mesa known as White Hill. There, the fuel load is relatively spare, and the site is accessible by roads on all sides so fire trucks can be on hand to douse any flames, Grob said.Rumors that the Aspen Chamber Resort Association pulled the plug on Aspen’s fireworks display a little too early are not correct, ACRA President Debbie Braun said. She said the final decision came Friday, at least in part to recoup the ACRA’s deposit on the fireworks order.The ACRA’s budget for the annual display is $20,000, with some financial support from the city of Aspen; a deposit on the shipment would not have been refunded if the fireworks were delivered but not used.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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