Fuse burns short on Carbondale fireworks
CARBONDALE – Glenwood Springs isn’t the only local community struggling to keep its annual Fourth of July fireworks tradition alive.
A combination of budget constraints and safety concerns on the part of the Carbondale Fire Department has prompted the department to decide not to hold the town’s July Fourth fireworks this summer.
“It is a budget thing for the fire department,” Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach said. “As most people know, there’s been a significant decrease in property valuations, and the fire department is pretty much 100 percent dependent on property taxes.
“We’re looking at a 30 percent decrease in valuations, which means a 30 percent decrease in the department’s budget,” he said of the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District’s current $2.8 million budget.
“We have to save wherever we can, and fireworks is one of those things that will have to go for now,” Leach said.
In recent years, the $8,000 cost of Carbondale’s annual holiday pyrotechnics show has been split 50-50 between the fire district and the town of Carbondale.
The town had budgeted $4,000 from its Recreation Sales and Use Tax Fund to pay for its share of the fireworks this year.
The fire department was initially prepared to maintain its share as well, Leach said.
But there are also safety concerns with the fire department continuing to put on the fireworks show, he said.
Beyond the cost to pay for the fireworks themselves, Leach said there are also costs associated with training fire department personnel to become certified to put on the show, as well as extra insurance costs.
“We have four people certified right now, and we really need between six and eight for safety’s sake,” Leach said. “There are a bunch of things that add up.”
Even if the budget weren’t an issue, he said he also has lingering safety concerns with the new fireworks venue that has been used in recent years.
A few years ago, the fire department had to move the launch point for the fireworks from White Hill, where it had traditionally been, after hot embers burned holes in the roof of the new Crystal River Elementary School building.
But the newer location, next to the new Roaring Fork High School building south of Meadowood Drive, presents similar concerns, Leach said.
“That location is and has been a big concern of mine,” he said of the venue, which attracts fireworks viewers within close proximity to the falling embers. “I don’t want to wait until someone gets hurt to do something.
“It’s also still pretty close to the [high] school,” Leach said. “Maybe it’s just that the town is outgrowing this local fireworks show. We’ve thought about it a lot, and there’s just no good place to do it.”
Meanwhile, Glenwood Springs City Council recently extended its funding challenge to keep Glenwood’s July Fourth fireworks display from being canceled. The council has said that if $9,000 in private funds can be raised for the fireworks, the city will cover the remainder of the $18,000 cost. As of Wednesday, the tally was $6,550.
The new deadline for the funding challenge is June 2. Rather than having the local fire department put on the display, Glenwood Springs contracts with a commercial fireworks vendor to put on the show.
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