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Risk-Avoidance: July 4 Fireworks Canceled in Flagler Beach and Palm Coast’s Town Center

| June 20, 2011

Not a good idea: last year's fireworks in Town Center were fiery on the ground, too. (© FlaglerLive)

There will be no 4th of July fireworks in Flagler Beach this year. Nor will there be fireworks in Palm Coast’s Town Center on July 3. The Flagler County Commission canceled both fireworks shows Monday evening in deference to firefighters and the risks inherent in shooting off hundreds of rockets—and flaming embers—in a county battling 16 active fires,  and on tinder-like grounds.

The county commission has the authority to cancel the Palm Coast fireworks this year because it’s paying the bill for them, through the Tourist Development Council, which approved $15,000 for each fireworks show.

No fireworks will be allowed anywhere, including hand-held items such as sparklers, which, have not always been forbidden during burn bans.

“If we remain in the condition that we’re in today or get any worse, fireworks of any kind are a bad idea,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito told the commission. There’s rain in the forecast next weekend, but how much of it is in question, and the region is still in drought conditions. “I would say that the one in the Town Center we can probably definitely say no to that one, because of the location, and I mean that if you drive to town center it’s very heavily wooded, and it’s very easy to ignite a fire in there. If we can get some rain over the weekend I think we can go ahead and plan on the Flagler Beach one, and possibly the Hammock, depending on how much rain we get.”

The Hammock fireworks show usually lights up the sky north of the Hammock Beach Club in an area cleared of woods. The fireworks are shot over the ocean.

“If it doesn’t rain at all, I would be very hesitant to allow any fireworks at all,” Petito said.

With that, commissioners appeared convinced not to take risks regardless. The concern is over falling embers, which can fall “near very expensive houses, and they’re very hard to stop.”

The fireworks shows are the work of Fireworks by Santore. The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce contracts with the Palm Coast-based company every year. That contract was signed this year and the company was going to be paid—ironically, in advance, for the first time in several years: previously, the company was paid the evening of the fireworks, after the show had once had to be canceled (as it was in the 1998 fires, when Flagler County was entirely evacuated the day before July 4, though by then the firestorms had crested, and fires died down in the following days). The payment process was halted. (A previous version of this story had incorrectly noted that Santore had already been paid.) Last year’s fireworks both in Flagler Beach and Palm Coast–where they were launched for the first time in the city’s history–tangoed with rain, but went off.

The company will work with the county to produce a show at a subsequent date, Doug Baxter, the chamber’s president, said, but it’ll be up to the Tourist Development Council to decide when the shows would be produced. One option: Labor Day.

“I was here in ’98 and I’m not willing to take that risk again. It’s pretty bad especially when the embers that even fly off of the pier and the wind changes. It can drift pretty far, so it would be my suggestion that we don’t have the fireworks,” Commissioner Milissa Holland said. “It honors the men and women who are out there day in and day out, fighting the fires, as well as not coming off as hypocritical to our residents, since we do have a burn ban, and we’ve really discussed how significantly serious this is. So I’m inclined to forego the fireworks this year.”

Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon endorsed Holland’s approach. “It just doesn’t send the right message. Very, very dangerous out there right now, and it’s not worth the chance, in my opinion, and I know the firefighters would agree with that. They’re tired, they’ve been out there long and hard. Doing something that could possibly cause us to fight more fires just for the 4th of July doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Barbara Revels, who lives and works in Flagler Beach, suggested the county wait for a week before making a decision, in light of the long-range forecast that calls for some rain. But the notion didn’t get support: only the fireworks are being cancelled, not the parade planned for Flagler Beach or the tailgate party planned for Town Center, though that tailgate party is organized with the fireworks as the payoff.

“I’m very, very reluctant to cancel the fireworks,” Alan Peterson said. “Cautions are in place any time fireworks are permitted, there are fire crews and fire vehicles there, immediately available, but I agree with the others because it’s just not worth the risk. I think whatever we decide, it may work out to be the wrong one, we may get a lot of rain. But I think that the public deserves to know well in advance as to what the situation is.”

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10 Responses for “Risk-Avoidance: July 4 Fireworks Canceled in Flagler Beach and Palm Coast’s Town Center”

  1. Kim says:

    I agree that the fireworks be canceled for July 4th and rescheduled. We can still celebrate our country’s birthday in other ways. Thank you firefighters for the work you continue to do to keep us safe.

  2. Concerned says:

    They say it will be canceled every year. Is this time for sure?

  3. The Truth says:

    First off, don’t get me wrong. I understand we are in extreme danger right now and our firefighters are working very hard. I understand canceling the town center fireworks but the fireworks in Flagler Beach? They are shot off of the pier and while I understand they can go a good distance, the crew that does them is usually very good at sending them towards the ocean and not towards land.

    We can still celebrate the 4th in many other ways, but fireworks is always a great capping off of the night and will be missed.

  4. tulip says:

    I understand that personal fireworks, including sparklers are also banned. However, there will be stupid and ignorant people who will light them anyway. I don’t understand why they are allowed to be sold here if they are banned.

  5. Nancy N. says:

    Tulip – the council has also issued an emergency order this year banning the actual sale of the fireworks here. If people want to illegally shoot off fireworks during this extreme fire risk, this year they’ll have to leave the county to get them.

    I totally agree with the canceling of the fireworks. I think not canceling them would have sent a mixed message to people about the burn ban that they could have used to justify setting off fireworks illegally on the holiday. “Well, how come it’s safe for them to do it…they just want to spoil my fun.”

  6. Jenn says:

    I will sadly miss the fireworks as they are a tradition but can clearly see that canceling them is a smart decision. I lived here during the “Fires of 98”; and would want to prevent that destruction at all costs. I am proud of our Flagler County Firemen!

  7. Miah says:

    The Chief himself is quoted as saying that the Flagler Beach fireworks could go on if there is rain this weekend. What harm would there have been in waiting a week as Ms. Revels had suggested?

  8. John Smith says:

    It is going to take more than just a couple of rains to come through here this weekend and next week to calm this fire situation down. We would need a quiet tropical storm with 10 or more inches of rain with NO lightning to help in this matter. All of these little storms that come here and go now does not hurt but it does not help either with the lightning and the humid conditions for the workers, after the rain comes and goes the sun comes back heats everything up evaporates the rain and there you go. WE NEED LOTS OF RAIN TO SETTLE THIS. Everything is dry the pier wood all of the houses around the pier the roofs and the yards, now the way the people pack themselves into the beach for the fireworks can you imagine the out of control situation that could take place if there was a fire and the congestion that it would bring for the FIREFIGHTERS trying to get there. Our FF spread themselves out to cover any situation all over town but can you imagine the outer FFs trying to get back to the center of town for a structure fire or fire in the trees and grass around the park. WE NEED LOTS OF RAIN get it.

  9. ARTIE O. says:


  10. Tax payer of Palm Coast says:

    Agreed just aim them a little more over the ocean it allways rains on the 4th anyway.

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