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Decision on fireworks display due Monday

Unless the Pagosa Springs area receives significant precipitation by Monday, the town’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display will not be permitted by Archuleta County Sheriff Pete Gonzalez.

Under the Stage 2 fire ban currently in place in Archuleta County (which bans explosive materials) and per an Executive Order issued by Gov. John Hickenlooper on June 14, the sheriff must give written authorization for the public fireworks display to occur. (For more information on the ban currently in place, see related article.)

Last Monday, June 25, Gonzalez announced that the fireworks will proceed if the area receives adequate rainfall, but would otherwise be canceled due to fire danger.

“We’re going to proceed with the plans to have a fireworks display on July 4,” Gonzalez said. “However, because of drought conditions and the number of fires ... if we do not get a significant amount of precipitation by next Monday, the fireworks will be canceled.”

Gonzalez added that significant rain is not currently forecasted, but said he is delaying his final decision until Monday.

“I recognize that the fireworks display brings a significant amount of money to this community,” Gonzalez said.

Prior to Monday, Gonzalez had tentatively approved the town’s fireworks display, but called an emergency meeting with area fire officials Monday following increased fire conditions.

The Pagosa Ranger District currently lists the area’s fire danger at extreme.

“Basically, we’re just praying for rain,” Gonzalez said, adding he would still like to be able to allow the fireworks display.

Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem, too, said he hopes for rain to allow the fireworks display, but said, “It’s very dry and I think caution is appropriate.”

“I was considering the fire danger and the cancellation was very appropriate,” said Mayor Ross Aragon.

“We certainly are going to cooperate with the sheriff in every way,” Mitchem said.

Playing into Gonzalez’s decision is the availability of fire resources in the area. Should a fire start elsewhere in the Pagosa Fire Protection District or Archuleta County, resources would likely not be available for the fireworks display.

Any wind blowing that night could also push burning embers away from the immediate launch area for the fireworks, adding concern, Gonzalez said.

All explosive materials are currently prohibited in Archuleta County, including fireworks, blasting caps, sparklers and other incendiary devices that may ignite flammable materials.

Also playing into Gonzalez’s decision is a statement in Hickenlooper’s June 14 order: “Should a wildfire occur as the result of the granting or an exemption to this order, the State of Colorado may, and likely would, deny access to state funds to pay for the costs of such a wildfire.”

Because of the severe conditions and ban, area law enforcement will be stepping up patrols on July 4.

Gonzalez said patrols will be increased on July 4, with all available deputies and personnel working, including Gonzalez and Undersheriff Jim Saunders.

Pagosa Springs Police Chief Bill Rockensock said he, too, would have all available officers working that day, with half working during the daytime events and half working that night.

Rockensock also noted that his department is taking a “no tolerance” approach to illegal fireworks, making it mandatory that those found in possession of fireworks will be cited and the explosives seized with no warnings.

For the final word on the town’s Fourth of July fireworks display, see Monday.

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