Rifle hopes to bring back fireworks | PostIndependent.com

Rifle hopes to bring back fireworks

Heidi Rice
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado – If you were a little kid in Rifle in years past, you probably remember the fireman coming to your door and taking a ride on the big red fire truck.

It was an effort to raise money to put on a Fourth of July fireworks display in the city of Rifle.

But, if you want to see fireworks this year, you might want to contribute to the “Pass the Boot” campaign, which is being held in conjunction with the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce to raise money for a fireworks display.

For nearly 40 years, the Rifle Fire Department had the duty of raising money for the fireworks display, but stopped putting on fireworks in 2007 because it was no longer financially feasible; along with safety issues regarding the pyrotechnics involved.

In the past, firefighters used to go through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors to get donations for the fireworks and offering free rides on the fire trucks to the kids in return.

“We used to raise money for the fireworks by going through the community door-to-door asking for donations and giving rides to kids on the fire trucks,” said Fire Chief Mike Morgan. “We did that for about 40 years – it started in the ’50s or ’60s.”

“We typically raised $9,000-$14,000,” Morgan said.

Even when Morgan joined the department in 1986, it was easy to cover the town in less than five evenings.

“At that time we got 300-400 calls per year in the 1980s and ’90s,” he said. “Now we get 1200-1300 calls per year and we don’t have the people to cover it anymore.”

2007 was the last year the Rifle Fire Department raised money for the city fireworks, which has never previously been done with taxpayer’s dollars.

The cost of the fireworks for this year is estimated at $18,000, with half of that already raised.

The Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce is hoping a campaign to raise funds for the fireworks will raise enough money to put on a show in July. So far, the chamber has kicked in $2,000, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department another $2,000 and $5,000 from the Visitor Improvement Fund.

“This would be for a 35 to 40 minute display,” said Annick Pruett, CEO and president of the Rifle chamber at a workshop meeting with the city and other interested parties.

The chamber has hired a company called “Midnight Sun” to put on and promote the fireworks.

A “Bring Back the Boot” fan page on Facebook has even been established, along with the “Pass the Boot” money-raising campaign.

Mayor Keith Lambert suggested that even though the fire department doesn’t put on the fireworks display, that it might kick into the coffers along with others.

Morgan said that while the department did not have the personnel or the expertise to raise funds and put on the fireworks, that might be an option.

When asked if the fire department could possibly contribute toward the funding of the fireworks display this year, Morgan said it would be up to the Rifle Fire District Board.

“It would be up to the [Rifle Area Fire Protection District] board,” he said. “It’s not that we won’t help, but we can’t be the one and only organization putting it all together.”

“I’d have to talk to the board about it,” Morgan said. “It’s not my decision. It’s a very sensitive issue. But the bottom line is that we can’t be the sole funding source. There’s not tax dollars paying for it – it’s fundraising and we don’t have the manpower or the people to go knock on every door – it’s just not feasible.”

Safety is another factor in the fire department’s decision. While it has some people trained, they are not pyrotechnicians.

“We want to support what we can – what is safe and logical,” Morgan said. “We want to help the chamber, but we just cannot be the lead agency anymore.”

Morgan pointed out that pyrotechnic technicians were essential in putting on firework displays, and insurance companies were putting on the pressure.

“These [fireworks] … they can remove body parts,” Morgan said.

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