Willow Fire Postpones Fireworks Display; Celebration Still On


The fireworks display scheduled for the town's Independence Day celebration has been postponed due to extreme fire danger, but the other scheduled activities are still in place.


Fire management officials take Payson mayor Barbara Brewer on a tour of the Willow Fire burn area. With firefighters risking their lives over the Independence Day holiday, Brewer made the decision to cancel the town fireworks display.

The decision to cancel the fireworks was made Wednesday morning as town officials met in the shadow of the Willow Fire burning just miles southwest of Payson.

"We just can't put on a fireworks show in our community when we have a (43,000)-acre fire right beside us. That isn't common sense," Payson Mayor Barbara Brewer said. "I asked Bill Schwind (Parks and Recreation Director) if he would consider looking at Labor Day weekend for the fireworks display. It would be nice -- cooler and safer.

"People are scared right now about this fire -- as we all are. We don't want to give our firefighters something else to worry over."

Tina Bruess, executive director of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, said there had been two calls of complaint over the cancellation, but for the most part the response has been one of understanding.

"A couple people feel it's their American right to have fireworks," she said. "Most people have been extremely supportive."

The other plans for the celebration include family fun games, a rubber duck race and two free community concerts.

Payson Parks and Recreation had expressed concern as to whether helicopters would disrupt the celebration, but Fire Marshal Mike Winters said they won't be flying on Sunday unless they absolutely have to -- and even then, they will try to get water from somewhere other than Green Valley Park.

According to Winters, illegal fireworks pose another problem for law and fire officials. They have already received calls about residents setting off fireworks in their yards.

"It's just not a good thing to do," Winters said. "I just don't understand why anyone would take the chance."

Sheriff John Armer said Thursday that additional law enforcement officers will be patrolling for illegal fireworks and other safety hazards over the weekend.

While fireworks will not be allowed, the traditional 4th of July barbecues are OK as long as they are charcoal or gas-powered.

"Just don't put a circle of river rock on the ground and light a fire," he said. "Be vigilant -- don't do anything to endanger yourself."

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