The Town of Vail, Colo., announced Wednesday that it is canceling its annual Fourth of July fireworks display and aggressively enforcing a ban on personal fireworks, citing extremely dry conditions and high fire risk as wildfires burn across the state this week. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been burning in at least eight separate fires statewide this month, forcing mass evacuations in cities and mountain towns across Colorado as temperatures have climbed above 100 degrees and set record highs each day for the past week.
"We were concerned that the town's fireworks display, while considered to be extremely safe, would conflict with the statewide emphasis in raising public awareness about the ban on the use of personal fireworks," Vail Mayor Andy Daly said in a statement Wednesday. "It's our No. 1 priority."
Spokespeople for the Town of Vail and Vail Resorts emphasized that the rest of the Vail America Days celebration, June 30-July 8, will go on as planned. Wednesday's announcement follows Friday's news from nearby Copper Mountain, where summer ski and snowboard camps at Woodward at Copper are in full swing, that the traditional professional fireworks display at the resort's 3 Ring Weekend event will be replaced with "fire-alternative entertainment" including LED poi spinning and hula hoops, glow sticks, and glow-in-the-dark face and body paint.
"Like the Copper Mountain Resort Association, the Copper Mountain Fire Department is committed to the community and providing a great experience for our homeowners, merchants and guests," said Mark Thomas, fire chief of Copper Mountain's fire department, in a statement issued Friday. "We are both disappointed that our 3 Ring Weekend will not have fireworks this year. The safety of our community and the Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, that will take effect on Friday, June 22, 2012, in Summit County, have led to this decision. Please come out and enjoy all of the other free activities and entertainment on June 30 and be safe."
The Stage 2 restrictions prohibit campfires, use of charcoal grills and fireworks, and most outdoor smoking, among other activities. Nearly every mountain town in the state has cancelled its fireworks plans this year, including ski towns such as Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, Frisco, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Telluride, Salida and Silverton.
"As of today, no ski resorts are directly impacted by wildfire and all resorts with summer operations are open for summer business," Colorado Ski Country USA spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph told ESPN.com. "However, resorts are watching the fires closely and are prepared with emergency plans in place, communicating with guests about the serious conditions and working with the U.S. Forest Service and related agencies to mitigate any fire threat."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order on June 14, 2012, banning open burning and private use of fireworks statewide, noting that nearly 400 wildfires have been reported in the state so far in 2012.
"Given the high fire danger throughout the state, the Colorado State Forest Service, in consultation with federal land management agencies, has requested an immediate ban on open burning in Colorado," wrote Hickenlooper wrote in his Executive Order. "The Larimer County Commissioners have requested a fireworks ban in parts of Northern Colorado where extreme fire danger exists. In response to these and other requests for an effective, uniform response to the high fire danger across the state, this Executive Order bans open burning in the State of Colorado."