Glenwood Springs will not host an Independence Day fireworks display
Fireworks erupted towards the end of Thursday’s Glenwood Springs City Council meeting when City Manager Debra Figueroa announced the city would not host an Independence Day firework show this year.
It was not a council decision. Figueroa made the choice based on Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson’s strong warning against shooting off the explosives given the expected high fire danger.
“We have canceled the fireworks for 4th of July just due to fire risk,” Figueroa said.
In recent years, the city began using smaller-scale fireworks for Independence Day celebrations because of mounting safety concerns. But this year, even they seemed too dangerous.
“I understand we had a dry winter … Actually, locally, it was only about 85 percent of average, so it wasn’t,” Mayor Mike Gamba said, arguing in favor of keeping with the tradition.
“There’s areas in the state that were 40 percent of average. So, we’re actually not horrible in terms of what we got for precipitation locally,” Gamba said. “I think it’s premature, I guess is my point.”
While July may seem a while off, if the show were to go on, fireworks would need to be ordered in the coming weeks.
“I know there is extreme worry across the entire area about it,” Figueroa said. “Yes, if you guys tell me to do it, we will do it, but I am telling you your fire chief does not think it’s a good idea.”
Tillotson had to leave the meeting before the discussion ensued.
“I think part of this, too, is the perception of how we’re responding to a dry year,” said City Attorney Karl Hanlon. “Regardless of whether it is totally safe or not, part of it is about the message that we’re sending to citizenry and about what they’re doing with their private fireworks.”
Although Figueroa made the initial call, she said the council has legal authority to override her decision.
“I mean, we’re in the middle of town. That’s why we have fire departments that can handle this if something did happen in town,” Councilor Todd Leahy said. “I don’t think that the fire danger is the issue.”
Leahy then motioned for the council to override Figueroa’s decision. Gamba seconded the motion, and said if conditions on the ground leading up to July 4 were not favorable for a fireworks display, the city could cancel or move the show to a later date.
Leahy amended his previous motion in accordance with the mayor’s suggestion.
Councilors Jim Ingraham, Jonathan Godes and Rick Voorhees voted against Leahy and Gamba’s recommendation. Shelley Kaup joined Leahy and Gamba in voting to move forward with fireworks plans, and Steve Davis was not present. The 3-3 tie was recorded as a no vote, and so the motion failed.
“I know that business owners are not thrilled,” Tillotson said in response to the council discussion. “Some of the comments I have heard are if we don’t have fireworks people are going to go to towns where they do have fireworks and we’re going to lose business.
“I get that,” he said. “But I don’t make that recommendation lightly.”