Dangerous fire conditions around Madison County are a wet blanket for the annual Virginia City Fireworks display.
Last week, Madison County issued level 1fire restrictions for all private land within the county. Among other things, the restrictions prohibit fireworks on private land within the county, said Chris Mumme, director of Madison County Emergency Management.
Conditions around the county are simply too dry to allow fireworks and open burning, Mumme said.
“This could go on all summer if we don’t get any relief,” he said.
Madison County currently had two large active fires, the Bear Trap 2 Fire and the Pony Fire. Together the two blazes have burned about 20,000 acres.
It wasn’t just the fires that prompted the restrictions, Mumme said, but they certainly reinforced the dire situation the county could be in if another fire got started.
On Sunday night, thunderstorms spread across Madison County bringing both lightening and rain.
The rain reinforced Virginia City business owner Kirk Belding’s opinion that rather than canceling the fireworks now, the town and county ought to take a more wait and see approach
He equated it to a baseball game being played despite the forecast of rain.
“Just because they’re predicting the weather to turn doesn’t mean you cancel the game,” Belding said.
A lot of people come from around the area to Virginia City for the fireworks, he said. If it’s too dry Wednesday night, then he’s okay with canceling it. But until then Belding would like to see officials be more optimistic.
“I still want to rally and see if we can do it,” he said. “It seems so rash for everybody to call it off.”
Most years Virginia City Mayor Bob Erdall is all for the fireworks display. But not this year.
Under the county’s stage 2 restrictions, only the local fire chief can approve an exemption, which the town would need to hold the fireworks display. Erdall is the fire chief as well and he’s not going to issue an exemption.
“It’s too dry where they’re going to be fired and the grass is just too tall,” Erdall said. “It isn’t worth it.”
But even though there won’t be any fireworks, things will still be hopping in Virginia City on the night of the Fourth, said Rosy Rosenthal, from the Pioneer Bar.
“We’re definitely going to have a blast,” Rosenthal said. “There’s going to be a lot of people in town, so despite the fireworks being cancelled there’s tons to do.”
Events in Virginia City on the night of July 4 include live bands at The Wells Fargo Restaurant and Bale of Hay Saloon and good times at the Pioneer Bar.
The fireworks display this year was going to be put on by the Virginia City Chamber of Commerce. The chamber began circulating word Monday that the display was cancelled.
Along with making fireworks illegal, the stage 2 restrictions restrict campfires, and charcoal grills on all private campsites. Smoking is prohibited except within a vehicle or buildings. Chainsaws and other internal combustion engines must have a spark arrestor and are prohibited between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Welding or operating acetylene or other torches with an open flame is prohibited. Shooting a firearm, air rifle or gas gun is prohibited, except when lawfully hunting.
For more information on the restrictions, call Mumme at 843-4253.