Fourth Of July A High Fire Danger Holiday

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You can feel the dry air on your skin. As the sun bakes the ground, there isn't a drop of moisture in the dust around our feet.

According to the Arizona Meteorological Network, the last time Payson saw more than a sprinkling of rain was April 12 and, before that, we hadn't seen a recordable rainfall since March 22.

The hot, dry weather is quickly turning the forests around us into a tinderbox.

This time last year, the forest was closed.

This year, though campfire restrictions are in effect, the forests are still open and the stream of Fourth of July visitors are on their way.

Despite the fire danger, the Payson Fire and the Payson Parks and Recreation departments feel there is no need to cancel this year's fireworks display.

Fireworks begin at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 4 and will last 30 to 40 minutes.

There will be 2,505 effects -- 300 more than last year -- with a grand finale of 60 aerial shells.

As always, the fire department is taking extra precautions to ensure the fireworks don't spark a fire. They will be set off over the lake in Green Valley Park and, prior to the show, the area will be covered with fire retardant foam. The nearby park grounds will be heavily irrigated.

The fire department and Forest Service will have officers on hand to watch for embers.

"We spent time deliberating about whether or not to have the fireworks this year," said Payson fire chief Marty DeMasi. "We still reserve the right to cancel at anytime.

"But there is also the thought that if we don't have the fireworks, some folks might want to put on their own show."

Even if the fireworks are canceled this year, let's leave all Fourth of July fireworks to professionals. This is not the year to set off those fun, but illegal, pyrotechnics you bought on the side of the highway in Wyoming.

"Fireworks are illegal in Arizona," DeMasi said, "and there will be no tolerance."

Of all the holidays, the Fourth of July brings with it the largest fire danger, because so many people enjoy setting off these backyard fireworks.

Most wildfires are still human caused -- a campfire left burning, a cigarette butt thrown from a moving car, a firecracker dropped on pine needles -- despite the endless warnings.

So, in this ninth year of drought and the Promontory Fire only a month behind us, let's ensure that the fireworks we see on the Fourth at Green Valley Park are the only ones of the season.

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