HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – Following two brush fires in the month of June, Douglas County officials have postponed planned fireworks displays in Parker and Highlands Ranch. This, after several Highlands Ranch residents wrote and phoned the county commission office this week concerned about the planned events.
“I don’t want to start all over, I don’t want my home to burn down,” said Beverly Fields, a resident of the BackCountry gated community in Highlands Ranch, which was located close to a recent brush fire.
Fields was one of the residents who called the county government office to voice her concern about the planned fireworks display, which was originally scheduled to take place Saturday night at Mountain Vista High School, located adjacent to the BackCountry neighborhood.
“Their attitude kind of was, ‘Well we’re watching the weather, we’re going to see how everything plays out, but this is what we’re going to do,'” Fields explained. “And so I’m like, ‘Okay, what do we do if you burn our neighborhood down?'”
But Thursday afternoon, county officials decided the fireworks would be too much of a risk, postponing the show to an undetermined date.
“It’s a difficult decision, because everybody likes to see fireworks,” said Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock. “The fact of the matter is that short period of enjoyment and time at the risk of millions and millions of dollars in property loss and life is just not worth that decision.”
Some questioned if the move to postpone came as a result of public pressure, like Darien Wilson, who is also running for Douglas County Commission.
“Monday I spent the whole day pacing the floor, worried about where this fire was headed,” said Wilson, referring to Monday’s brush fire in Highlands Ranch. “Tuesday, I was really shocked to learn that the backcountry HOA had emailed the commissioners and requested that they not do the fireworks from Mount Vista High School on the Fourth of July, and that the commissioners had replied and said that they were going to go forward with them anyway… It didn’t change until the press was brought in, so I have to wonder about the motivation.”
However, Spurlock said the decision to upgrade the county’s fire restrictions from stage one to stage two – thus forcing the fireworks shows to be cancelled – was based entirely on science and recommendations from experts working with the county’s emergency operations center.
“We had been in contact with the board of county commissioners on a daily basis… this last week… talking about where we’re at and fire restrictions and fire danger,” said Spurlock. “We had been in constant communication, and I made the decision, that was really my decision to make, to take us out of stage one and into stage two, because of all of those other reasons, the fire risk, the experts advising me, the level of danger.”
Some residents, like Fields, were grateful for the change in plans.
“Relieved, and happy, because I don’t understand how anyone thought this was a good idea, it just didn’t make sense,” Fields said.
Not everyone is happy about the cancellation though. One BackCountry resident told CBS4 she wanted the professional fireworks show to go on, because she felt it would discourage folks from shooting off illegal fireworks.
County officials said the fireworks shows in Parker and Highlands Ranch cost $30,200 each, and the county commission will meet next week to decide when to reschedule the shows – weather and fire restrictions permitting.
In the meantime, a separate fireworks show is still planned for July 24, to celebrate the opening of the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo, which spectators can watch virtually.
Castle Rock Fire and Rescue increased fire restrictions to Stage 2 on Thursday, canceling the fireworks show for the Town of Castle Rock.