PARKER, Colorado — The three-member Douglas County board of commissioners released a statement Sunday acknowledging they knew conditions were dry for their fireworks displays Saturday night, but said they believed the conditions were safe enough for the show to go on.
The second annual holiday fireworks display caused fires at each of the three launch sites in the county. Firefighters at the sites in Parker, Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock were able to get those grass fires under control before they threatened any buildings.
"Large or small, the use of fireworks - whether by individuals in neighborhoods or via a planned event by pyrotechnic professionals - comes with fire danger," the county commissioners said in a Facebook post. "In the absence of fire restrictions, fireworks may be used responsibly and legally. Douglas County partnered with law enforcement officials and our fire departments to mitigate fire danger. With an awareness of dry conditions, yet no wind, we collaborated before, during and after the shows to mitigate risk. Locations were chosen accordingly. Crews were on-scene during and after the shows. The spot fires that occurred were quickly contained. We credit South Metro Fire and Castle Rock Fire for their preparedness and responsiveness."
The county was not under fire restrictions on Saturday, according to Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock.
On Tuesday, a grass fire burned 24 acres in the county. Spurlock said the county activated a firefighting helicopter they have on a “need if available” contract. Firefighters already had that grass fire under control, but the helicopter staged in the county because of the conditions.
It would take Stage 2 fire restrictions to automatically cancel the fireworks show, Spurlock told 9NEWS. He said the county didn’t meet the criteria for those restrictions. Spurlock said the decision was then left to the board of commissioners.
“Personally, in my opinion, the firework displays were not a great idea,” Spurlock told 9NEWS. “It was obvious that we were in dry conditions.”
“The dryness clearly posed a risk for the people who lived nearby the displays,” he said.
Tim Capozzoli and his family parked their car in a good spot in their Parker neighborhood to watch the display. Capozzoli said the family was enjoying the show until they spotted a strange-looking firework that didn’t seem to extinguish before it hit the ground.
“About two minutes later we started to see flames in multiple different spots, kinda emerging and growing and growing,” Capozzoli said.
“As we were driving away to get back to our home, which was just in the same neighborhood where we were watching, we did start to have the conversation of 'are we going to need to pack up our home?'” he said.
The fireworks display, touted by the commissioners as a gift to the residents of the county, began last year as an event to lighten people’s moods after a tough year with coronavirus.
“Last year when they did it, it was really cool because it was right at the end of that bad COVID year and everyone was really sick of missing out on events,” Capozzoli said.
“We’re happy that they wanted to do something special, but the end result could have been really, really bad,” he said.
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