Fourth of July in Aspen will go on, even without fireworks
Fire officials warn of dry conditions, remind revelers of fire dangers
Aspen takes the Fourth
Despite the cancellation of the fireworks show, there’s still plenty of Fourth of July activities slated in Aspen on Tuesday. Here’s the lowdown:
8 a.m. — Boogie’s Buddy Race (5 miles and family and canine 1-mile walk)
9:30-10:30 a.m. — Red Brick bike decorating, Paepcke Park
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — 17th Annual America’s Birthday Carnival, Paepcke Park
11 a.m. — Old Fashioned Fourth of July Parade, downtown
Noon to 3 p.m. — AVSC Fourth of July Picnic, Koch Lumber Park
4 p.m. — Aspen Music Festival and School Fourth of July Concert, Benedict Music Tent
6 to 10:30 p.m. — Dancing in the Streets, a free community dance party on the Mill Street and Cooper Avenue malls
6:30 p.m. — “Hairspray, the Musical!,” The Hurst Theatre in Rio Grande Park (tickets required)
Transportation and Parking Tips
• Parking in Aspen will be limited. Bus info is available at 970-925-8484 or at www.rfta.com. Give yourself plenty of time as the buses will fill to capacity.
• Free parking will be available at the Brush Creek Park & Ride, with free and frequent bus service to and from Aspen.
• Buses that travel on Main Street will be re-routed from approximately 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to accommodate the Fourth of July parade.
• Watch for special parking and street closures to avoid a ticket or tow.
Source: City of Aspen
Now is not good time to play with fire, even on this Independence Day.
So said Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine on Monday, noting that “right now it’s the driest level of vegetation we may have seen. It is reaching pretty much historic rates.”
For Fourth of July revelers, that means there will be no fireworks blasted from Aspen Mountain on Tuesday evening. That’s not an unusual development; the fate of the annual fireworks show, put on by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association with the help of the Aspen Fire Protection District, often is touch-and-go because of dry conditions and seasonably high temperatures.
Weather numbers from June illustrate just how dry it is.
June recorded 0.15 inch of precipitation in Aspen, according to the Weather Underground website, and the early days of July have seen threats of rain but no measurable precipitation. By comparison, June 2016 recorded 0.52 inch of precipitation, and the same month in 2015 accounted for 1.3 inches.
Add up the recent figures — though there’s not much to add, actually — and it equates to what are called Stage 1 fire restrictions that took effect Saturday.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office decided to enforce the restrictions because of what it called “unseasonably warm weather and lack of moisture this summer. The fuel moisture content of trees, grass and brush is significantly low and at risk of a devastating fire.”
Fire marshal and deputy fire chief Parker Lathrop noted the cancellation of the fireworks show is just once element of the fire restrictions. Legal and illegal fireworks are not allowed under the restrictions, which includes sparklers and firecrackers.
Rest assured, or maybe not, however, that the traditional firing of the cannon to kick of the Fourth, under the supervision of pyrotechnician Jay Parker, will carry on as usual.
“With any luck, 6 a.m.,” Parker reported. “There could be another one at 6:15, and another one at 6:30.”
Lathrop said the cannon blast poses no threat because “no fire is released and they’re doing it up there at a huge area with dirt and minerals. That venue works out, and they can do it safely with very little risk.”
Smokers of cigarettes and cigars are allowed to partake so long as they are in an enclosed vehicle, building, a developed recreation site “or while stopped in an area of at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material,” the sheriff’s office statement said.
Lathrop added it’s OK to smoke while outside in downtown Aspen. But if you’re out in the woods or even walking down the Rio Grande Trail — the first few miles of which meander through grass, bushes, brush and trees — smoking is off-limits, he said.
(Visitors to Aspen take note: While it is legal to buy marijuana for recreational use, smoking it in public is outlawed).
“The Stage 1 restrictions are more about public education,” he said. “Be smart about what you’re doing.”
Other restrictions include:
• Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire (except within a developed recreation site or improved site that includes a fire ring/pit).
• Operating or using an internal or external combustion engine without an approved spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained, and in effective working order meeting either the USDA Forest Service Standards or appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers.
Restrictions don’t apply to the following:
• People having a valid permit to start a fire from the Sheriff’s Office or their local fire district.
• Any fires contained within a liquid fuel or gas fuel stove, fireplaces within buildings, charcoal-grill fires at private residences, and fires located within permanent fire pits or fire grates so long as they are located in developed picnic grounds, campgrounds or recreational sites.
• Burning of irrigation ditches located within and completely surrounded by irrigated farmlands, provided a specific written permit has been granted for such burning, in advance, by the fire district having jurisdiction.
• Campfires or bonfires required in religious ceremonies, for which a federal agency, the fire district and the sheriff have granted a written permit in advance.
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