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Potential fire risks, supply chain issues and worker shortages have put a damper on these popular Independence Day events.
Watching showy fireworks displays under a starry sky was the highlight of many people’s Fourth of July holiday celebrations until Covid-19 forced cancellations for health reasons. This year, many localities across the country are again canceling these popular events but for different reasons: potential fire risks in drought-stricken areas, supply chain issues caused by the pandemic and growing worker shortages.
In Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and other states in the Southwest, a number of cities have cancelled fireworks shows due to dry conditions that could lead to fires. Fireworks started 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 building fires, 500 vehicle fires and 17,100 other fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Flagstaff, Arizona, swapped its fireworks for a laser light show synced to music. The shift is “due to extreme fire risk with the dry and hot conditions in the northland,” said Flagstaff City Manager Greg Clifton on the city’s website. “It is extremely important to have a safe celebration and be fire aware.”
The annual Phoenix Fabulous 4th and other fireworks events in the city were shelved due to another issue: supply chain challenges, according to the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.
On the West Coast, Cal Expo, which hosts hundreds of events annually in Sacramento, including the state fair, canceled its fireworks show, saying in a statement “we are facing staffing and resource shortages that have created unexpected difficulties.”
In Los Angeles County, four cities—Lancaster, Palmdale, La Puente and Lynwood—recently were forced to cancel their fireworks shows for a different reason: Their fireworks vendor’s display permit was revoked after the California state fire marshal raided its warehouse for public safety concerns and potential criminal activity, Fox 11 Los Angeles reported June 30.
Across the country in Maryland, College Park announced it was canceling its annual Independence Day Fireworks and Concert held with the University of Maryland due to “Covid-19's continued impact on the supply chain.” The city said on its website “we anticipate the return of the event in July 2023.”
In Ocean City, a popular Maryland beach town, two fireworks shows were canceled because its fireworks vendor said it did not have enough workers to inadequately staff the events, the city announced in a statement.
And in the Upper Midwest, Minneapolis also cited staff shortages, in addition to a construction project, as the reasons its traditional Red, White and Boom celebration, including fireworks over the Mississippi River, is not being held.
Finally, a number of towns canceled fireworks because of soaring shipping costs, including some in Vermont and New Hampshire, according to NBC5 in Burlington, Vermont.
Correction: This story originally stated that Milwaukee's fireworks were canceled this year but they are on for July 4th.
Jean Dimeo is the managing editor of Route Fifty.