RENO, Nev. — Extremely hot and dry conditions forecast across much of the West through July 4 are raising concerns about wildfires and fireworks dangers, including in Salt Lake City, where officials are replacing their traditional explosive show with a drone light show. .
An unusually wet winter and spring have allowed the return of live fireworks shows in some other areas that have canceled them in recent years due to drought, including parts of Nevada, California and Arizona.
But wildfire risks are rising with triple-digit temperatures forecast this weekend — up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius) in Phoenix, where a shortage of professional-grade fireworks led to cancellations last year, but red bursts, white and blue resume this Independence. Day.
In Utah, Salt Lake City for the first time is replacing fireworks with a drone show. Fireworks are still planned in most suburbs and neighboring towns.
“As temperatures rise and fire danger increases, we need to be mindful of both our air quality and the potential for wildfires,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said this week.
A laser light show again replaces conventional explosions in Flagstaff, Arizona. And in Lake Tahoe, straddling California and Nevada, North Shore communities will celebrate with a drone show they put in place on July 4 due to persistent drought and wildfire risks.
But the traditional celebration returns to the main casino on Tahoe’s south shore, where up to 100,000 visitors are expected to watch the fireworks ignited from barges that light up the sky over the alpine lake.
Large crowds are also expected in Las Vegas, where highs are forecast to exceed 110 F (43 C) and officials are urging residents to forgo personal fireworks and instead enjoy those launched from the casino rooftops.
“Leave the big shows to the professionals,” Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said.
On Friday, Phoenix Fire Capt. Rob McDade said a fire that started in vegetation in an old neighborhood sent embers to the roofs of at least three homes that were badly damaged. He said he stressed the risks ahead of the fireworks-fueled celebrations.
«We don’t know what started this, but it’s a good time to remind everyone that this is going to be a very long and hot Fourth of July,» McDade said. ABC-15 in Phoenix.
In California, the Fourth of July follows the first major heat wave since winter’s extraordinary downpours and a cool spring that spurred dense growth of now-drying grasses and shrubs. The vast foothills of the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada will be under excessive heat warnings through the weekend. The maximum is forecast to reach 123 F (50 C) in Death Valley.
«Despite the rainy conditions we’ve seen this winter, we expect to see triple-digit temperatures this weekend and that will increase our risk of wildfires,» Acting State Fire Marshal Daniel Berlant told reporters in Sacramento. .
“With our dry Mediterranean climate, every time of year here in the 4th naturally lends itself to wildfires, and that risk is only increased by the use of illegal fireworks and the unsafe use of fireworks,” he said.
In Pasadena, the only legal fireworks will be the annual professional extravaganza at the historic Rose Bowl stadium at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.
“We have a lot of additional growth because of the rain, and as those fuels dry out and dry out, they’re going to be fire-ripe and so … we’re nervous this year,” Fire Chief Chad Augustin said.
The only cancellations in Southern California are due to recently ordered environmental regulations along the Los Angeles County coast.
A handful of communities decided they couldn’t meet new standards that the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted in May. Aimed at reducing plastics and other pollution that could be dumped into oceans or marinas from fireworks, they were sparked in part by environmentalists who filed a federal lawsuit accusing Long Beach’s Big Bang on the Bay of violating the Act. of Clean Water.
In northern Nevada, Reno has received twice the normal rainfall so far this year, but wildfire risks are also increasing.
“The precipitation has caused significant grass growth throughout Nevada, which is drying out, increasing the fire danger,” said Brock Uhlig, Nevada fire management officer with the Bureau of Land Management. “During the July 4th holiday, we typically extinguish numerous wildfires caused by the illegal use of fireworks on public lands.”
In Washington, which last year enjoyed one of its mildest wildfire seasons in a decade, authorities are alerting residents as they prepare for what could be one of the busiest.
Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz warned this week that a firework could start a massive fire.
“Fire activity has actually increased considerably since the early spring months,” Franz said. “We urge people not to think that just because our skies are clear right now that fire season is not here. It’s here.