Despite Rains and Fire Chief’s OK, Flagler Beach Fireworks Won’t Be Reignited
FlaglerLive | June 29, 2011
Updated at 12:49 p.m. with Barbara Revels comments.
Heavy, almost daily rains have helped dampen Flagler County’s wildfire emergency considerably since before last weekend. The rains began, ironically, soon after the county commission voted to cancel this year’s Independence Day fireworks in Flagler Beach and at Town Center, on the recommendation of County Fire Chief Don Don Petito.
The decision to cancel set off angry and conflicting reactions.
- Risk-Avoidance: July 4 Fireworks Canceled in Flagler Beach and Palm Coast’s Town Center
- A Dissent on Canceling July 4 Fireworks: When Palm Coast Dictates to Flagler Beach
- July 4th Twice Over Again As Flagler Beach And Palm Coast Will Each Launch Fireworks
- From Drought to Monsoon, But Fire Officials Warn Wildfires Aren’t Done Yet
This week, Petito was sticking to his recommendation for two of the three planned fireworks, but he conceding that setting them off in Flagler Beach would be permissible. “With the amount of rain we’ve gotten and the amount of rain that’s forecasted,” Petito said, “we’d probably be OK to do the fireworks at the pier but definitely not at the Town Center and definitely not at the Hammock.”
The county commission reconsidered the matter at a budget workshop on Monday—and stuck by its earlier decision for several reasons, not least of which the fireworks company’s own inability, at this point, to reverse course.
“Fireworks are a lot more complex than people realize. It’s not as simple as throwing a load of fireworks on the back of a truck and going and doing a display. There’s a lot more that’s involved,” said Anthony Santore, head of Fireworks by Santore Inc., the Palm Coast-based company contracted, for $30,000, to do the Town Center and Flagler Beach fireworks. “Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to turn it back on again. The good news is we’re planning a very spectacular show for whatever day the city of Flagler Beach decides to move forward with the event.”
Santore said his company cannot overextend itself with fireworks shows: it wouldn’t be safe, and it wouldn’t give spectators their money’s worth, given the complexity of planning a proper show. “The biggest issue is the misconception of how fast a fireworks show can be produced, how quickly we can react,” Santore said. “It’s a very, very, very long process.” Several of the company’s customers have cancelled shows this season for similar reasons.
County Commissioner Barbara Revels had different view. “I would have liked to have seen the county commission vote to have it be able to go forward and then try to see whatever the chamber could do with Santore on some basis, some minimal basis, something,” Revels Wednesday morning. “I understand if they’ve taken all the resources and sold them, but it seems like to me in a two-week time period before the fireworks, I’d be surprised–I’m probably wrong–but that they could take a whole fireworks display and sell it to somebody else on such short notice, but I guess they were able to do that, and good for them if they were able to do that.”
Other commissioners were were reluctant to reverse course.
“I’m as disappointed as anybody. I planned to go and would have liked to have gone,” Commission Chairman Alan Peterson said. Aside from Santore’s position, the county was not willing to rush to find another company, nor was it willing to take the risk of a fireworks show, conditions being still relatively brittle—if not in Flagler Beach, then elsewhere.
The county has a strict burn ban in effect that forbids so much as the lighting of hand-held sparklers. Fires are still burning (six of them as of Tuesday evening, including the 5,100-acre Espanola fire). Commissioners did not want to send the message to county residents that it would be fine to set off fireworks on their own. A single minor rocket fired off in a Palm Coast cul de sac could land in a pine tree canopy and set it off, for example, triggering a sudden emergency. The county is also facing steep bills from the fire emergency, all of which it will have to pay for itself.
A new date for the fireworks hasn’t been set, but chances are that the fireworks will be scheduled for Labor Day.
“This is our home town,” Santore said. “We’re going to really pour it on when they have this show. We’re going to give them far more than they’re paying for because we want to make sure the residents of Flagler Beach are happy with us and feel like they’ve gotten a spectacular display.”
To Revels, the entire matter exposed a couple of issues: Who’s in control of fireworks in certain areas, and what role does Flagler Beach play in its own special events. The Tourist Development Council is footing the bill, through the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. “Then you have the city of Flagler Beach who you’d think would have some say as to whether or not they’re ready for it,” Revels said, “and I was being told that the city of Flagler Beach had no decision whatsoever in it and it was between the chamber of commerce and their fireworks provider as to whether or not they chose to go forward with it. So even if you had a county who had said OK, and you had the city of Flagler Beach who wanted it, you could have had a chamber that said naaah, or our contract isn’t going to work out, or we’ve made other arrangements. So to me it showed a situation that maybe needs to be rectified in the future, maybe not. Maybe that’s the way it should be. I don’t know. I’m just saying it was a surprise to discover that.
Charlotte Marten reports on county residents’ reactions: