Fourth of July

Published 7:13 am Sunday, June 29, 2008

By Staff
revelry in city
may lack bang
Fireworks decision
remains up in the air
Staff Writer
The Independence Day fireworks display in Washington could turn out to be a dud.
The city is taking a wait-and-see approach to the Fourth of July tradition.
In Washington, the Fourth of July festivities start at 5 p.m. on the waterfront with a disc jockey, who will play music until 7 p.m. At that time, the band Mad Dog and Blues Night Out will take the stage. Food vendors and ice-cream stands will be set up along Stewart Parkway during the afternoon. The fireworks display is scheduled to start at 9 p.m.
In Belhaven, fireworks are set to go off around the same time. They will be set off over the Pungo River, and spectators may take in the spectacle from the beachfront at Wynne’s Gut.
Several factors, including the weather and availability of N.C. Forest Service personnel, play into the decision whether to have fireworks displays, according to Washington Fire Chief Jimmy Davis. Although a burning ban remains in effect for Beaufort County, the ban doesn’t play a part in deciding whether fireworks will light up the skies over the Pamlico River, Davis said.
Several months ago, North Carolina Attorney General Ray Cooper ruled that fireworks do not constitute open burning. Therefore, the burning ban does not apply to fireworks, Davis said.
Fireworks planned for the Washington Summer Festival were canceled because of a lack of assistance from Forest Service personnel, Kristi Hardison, events and facilities supervisor with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said.
The majority of Forest Service employees were fighting the Evans Road fire while the Summer Festival was being held, Davis said.
According to the Incident Management Team assigned to the Evans Road fire, as of 6 p.m. Friday, 313 personnel were assigned to the Evans Road fire, including rangers with the N.C. Forest Service.
Hardison believes that with the fire 75 percent contained, there will be enough Forest Service personnel available for the city to proceed with its fireworks display.
The decision on whether to have the fireworks display in Washington might come as late as Thursday, according to Davis.
Weather will also play a significant role in the decision.
Usually, dry conditions don’t hold much significance in the potential for fireworks to spark wildfires, but with the region’s extended drought, they could, Davis said.
This was the overriding concern during the Summer Festival, Davis said.
Hardison was more optimistic about the situation.