Like many other places around the country, Nederland prepared this evening for the big fireworks display on Fourth of July. Cars were barked along Barker Reservoir, tents were set up along turn outs, and people sat in lawn chairs sipping cold beverages as they waited for the sun to set and the dark to usher in the brilliant explosions overhead.
It’s a scene that I’ve seen repeated in many mountain towns across Colorado — Estes Park, Breckenridge, nearby Evergreen. And there is something spectacular about seeing the array of colors bursting over the mountain tops and alpine lakes — it’s a special setting.
But part of me has mixed emotions about this as a responsible home owner. Just four years ago, there were no fireworks in Nederland or any other mountain town. In fact, the governor of Colorado basically banned all fireworks displays for July 4, 2012. After an incredibly dry spring, June ushered in major fires all throughout Colorado, with two large fires breaking out just west of Fort Collins and another on the outskirts of Colorado Springs.
That was the summer I drove around with two tote boxes packed full of personal mementos in my car for pretty much the entire summer. Terrified that a fire would break out while I was at work, knowing I was a full hour’s drive from my house, I carried the things that could not be replaced, worried I wouldn’t be able to get home if a fire would break out.
Despite our wet winter, June has proven to be quite hot and dry, and it doesn’t take long for all the green grass to turn brittle and brown, providing ample fuel for fires to break out. As I type this, the Beaver Creek wildfire is burning near the mountain town of Steamboat Springs, now at more than 13,000 acres and still uncontained.
To send explosives that are burning out into an environment that we all know is at risk for wildfires to ignite at any time seems foolish and somewhat irresponsible. Especially when you think of all the time our community and others spend performing wildfire mitigation to prevent incidents. Fireworks are beautiful and certainly traditional for this All American holiday, but in the mountains of Colorado, I think we can celebrate our country’s freedoms just fine without putting ourselves at added risk.