Dry conditions bring some fireworks cancellations in SE Wisconsin
WAUWATOSA- It's been two weeks since we've seen a good, soaking rain in southeast Wisconsin and the dangerously dry conditions have already prompted Burlington, Delavan and Watertown to postpone their 4th of July fireworks display.
"To err on the side of caution, safety is the way I want to go," said Burlington Mayor Robert Miller.
Miller, the city's fire chief and fire inspector all determined these extremely dry conditions are too dangerous for fireworks.
"Right now, the grass is so dry. Any little spark or sparkler could ignite the grass. Then, it would go up a building or a side of a building," explained John Niederer, the fire inspector.
The show usually co-incides with the fire department's annual fundraiser at Echo Park.
Mayor Miller wanted a bigger show, doubling the fireworks and forcing them to the Chocolate Fest grounds.
"It's surrounded by residential and commercial properties. It's also part of the old Burlington landfill which is grass covered and totally dry right now," explained the Mayor.
Still, many communities are doing everything they can to make sure the fireworks don't fizzle out.
The Wauwatosa fireworks are a tradition for Amy Sullivan and her family she tells TODAY'S TMJ4's Jesse Ritka, "We have our cookout, we get friends over, family over, we're hoping because we live so close this year, that we'll be able to see the fireworks from our house."
This June was the sixth driest on record. Now, Wauwatosa wants to be sure the dry conditions won't snuff out their fireworks display.
Assistant Fire Chief Jim Case has been monitoring the conditions at Hart Park where the fireworks are planned to be launched from, "This is about the driest I've seen it in a long time, especially come the 4th."
So they have been working with the city, watering the fireworks launch site since last Friday, trying to battle the burned, brown grass.
"It's pretty hard to keep up with it, there's no substitute for rain, there's no question about that," Wauwatosa Parks and Forestry Supervisor Ken Walbrant explains.
And while the sprinklers may be silent during the day, they rush to life at night, keeping evaporation low.
"It's an undertaking at this point, if we're going to have green grass; we're going to have to keep watering," Walbrant says.
Other communities like Brookfield, Cedarburg, Glendale, Greendale, Waukesha and West Bend are all watering their launch sites as well. Trying to ensure the fireworks don't disappear like the green grass has.
"Just doing it the morning of the fireworks probably wouldn't really cover what we need so a couple days ahead of time would be good," says Asst. Chief Case.
In addition to the watering, many communities are increasing the number of Fire Fighters and extra equipment on standby Case says, "We'll have people here on site, not only before but also during the event just in case anything happens."
Some communities are still discussing their plans for the fireworks display, not completely ruling out postponement.
Asst. Chief Case says that option is possible even minutes before the show starts but they hope their plan creates a safe and spectacular show, "On the morning of the 4th, we're going to do a little extra work, we're going to water it down once in the morning and then again directly before the fireworks begin. We're pretty comfortable that we'll be able to contain it that way," Asst. Chief Case says.
Which is patriotic music to Amy's ears, "What's 4th of July without fireworks!"