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They’re On: County Repeals Ban On Flagler Beach Fireworks in 4-1 Vote

| July 1, 2011

The show's real pyromaniac: the fusebox that controls the fireworks on the Flagler Beach Pier. (© FlaglerLive)

In an extraordinary meeting called just 24 hours ago under the sort of procedures usually reserved for major emergencies, the Flagler County Commission voted this afternoon, 4-1, to repeal the ban on Flagler Beach’s July 4 fireworks.

“There will be fireworks on July 4th,” Commission Chairman Alan Peterson said after the vote. The meeting, largely uneventful, lasted 23 minutes. Its unfolding nevertheless revealed the intense back-room jockeying that took place–involving county commissioners, county staff, the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce’s Doug Baxter, the totality of the Flagler Beach City Commission and, in the middle of it all, County Fire Chief Don Petito–leading to the repeal.

Petito reiterated his judgments from Monday: setting off fireworks in Flagler Beach would “probably be ok.” Setting them off elsewhere would not be. The drought index has dropped from 586 on Monday to 423 as of now (on an 800-scale, with 800 being absolutely dry).

“My 100 percent opinion is that fireworks are never good. I’m a fire chief,” Petito said when Commission Chairman Alan Peterson asked him if, by saying “probably,” it meant more than a 50-50 recommendation.

Listen to the Exchange Between Commission Chairman Peterson, Fire Chief Petito and Administrator Coffey
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But Petito would not give his full endorsement, even when pressed. County Administrator Craig Coffey had to intervene essentially to put words in Petito’s mouth: that the current situation is not significantly different than the usual July 4th conditions in other years. But that’s not what Petito said. It’s what the county manager had him agree to in a remarkably overt display of verbal muscling from a boss to an employee.

Here’s how the exchange went:

“Is in your opinion the risk of fireworks less today than it was on Monday?” Peterson asked Petito.

“It’s a tough question. Again, you’re shooting them over the beach. If everything goes over the water, everything is going to be PK. You get one stray rocket on any day, it could be bad. So I could sit here and tell you everything is going to be OK–”

“That’s not really my question,” Peterson pressed. “My question is, and I listened to what you said on Monday, and my opinion on Monday was that I felt I didn’t want to take that risk. Why now should I change my vote?”

“Chief, chief, let me help out a little bit,” Coffey interrupted, preventing a clearly uncomfortable Petito from answering. “Chief, is the fire risk this year, we face a risk every time we do fireworks. The risk now that we face is typical of any other year that we face now at this point in time based on the rain and other stuff we’ve received, is that correct?”

“Say that again?” Petito asked.

“We face a risk every time we do fireworks regardless of the year,” Coffey said. “The risk that we face in Flagler Beach now at this point in time is not necessarily any different than we faced in previous year, would that be a fair statement as far as that particular area?”

“Yeah, we can go with that,” Petito said.

“OK,” Coffey said.

“Well,” Peterson said, “that’s a significant statement.”

There are still six fires burning in the county, including the Espanola fire. County Commissioner Milissa Holland asked if fire crews have had enough rest since the long stretch of overtime they’d put in–and rest enough “to deal with another major disaster.” Petito again hedged. “To say that they’ve had enough rest, I think it’ll take another couple of weeks before we go back to normal.”

“I’ve never heard a firefighter complain that they just can’t go on,” Commissioner George Hanns said, justifying his vote in favor of repealing the ban. “Things have changed since the other day.”

“It’s probably not a popular decision to cancel fireworks,” Holland said, but she termed it “irresponsible” to hold them, given the situation. “I’ve certainly lost a little bit of sleep over it as well,” she said, but was unable to change her mind.

Milissa Holland’s Exchange With Petito, Then (Later in the Meeting) Her Summation
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Formally, the commission repealed a previous order banning all county fireworks, including one that had been scheduled for Town Center and another in the Hammock, by amending it to enable only the Flagler Beach show.

Firefighters will be posted on standby in Flagler Beach, as they normally are when fireworks shows are staged whether there is a burn ban or not.

The commission voted on June 20, unanimously, to cancel all three fireworks shows. At the time the county was battling more than a dozen wildfires. The county’s fire crews were on 36-hour shifts. The county’s fire chief was not wanting to risk new fires, which would have stretched crews dangerously. It was based on his recommendation that commissioners eliminated the shows.

The full Flagler Beach City Commission was in the chambers (John Feind, Steve Settle, Jane Mealy, who briefly addressed and thanked the commission later in the meeting, Kim Carney and Marshall Shupe), plus the city’s acting county manager (Bruce Campbell) and the city’s fire chief (Frank Roberts). Constitutional officers were also present: Clerk of Court Gail Wadsworth and Property Appraiser Jay Gardner.

Watch the Full Special Meeting (About 23mn)
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Here’s the schedule of events for Monday’s Independence Day celebration in Flagler Beach, as scheduled by the Flagler Beach Chamber of Commerce:

10 a.m. Independence Day Parade
11 a.m. Cornhole Competition
12 p.m. Watermelon Eatin’ Contest
1 p.m. Tiny Tiki/Lil’ Kahuna Event
2 p.m. Hot Dog Eating Competition sponsored by Chi Dog
3 p.m. Battle of the Bands
9 p.m. Fireworks

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17 Responses for “They’re On: County Repeals Ban On Flagler Beach Fireworks in 4-1 Vote”

  1. Elana Lee says:

    Commissioner Hanns obviously knows some of the same firefighters that I do, and I agree with him. I think the County representatives and all involved came to a good decision. Common sense requires the ability to evaluate situations as they change and the willingness to be flexible, which is exactly what they have done. Way to go!!!

  2. Megan Gavan says:

    I am so glad that the Celebration for the 4th of July is back on…. I understand that the 4th is not all about the fireworks but it does add to the excitement, especially when you see it in all the children’s eyes.. As far as the meeting goes THANK YOU to the 4 that voted for it and as far as the 1 that voted NO well there has to be one BEEP that has to stand out.

  3. Diane says:

    I am very happy that we are having fireworks this 4th of July, but I am not (nor should anyone) going to get upset at a member of the Flagler County Commission deciding against it. We should be happy that “they” are looking out for our well being…..even if that would have meant NO fireworks at all.

  4. Shane Wood says:

    I just want to say that I am glad the Commission took the time out of their day to meet and further discuss the matter and to ultimately approve the fireworks display. I do understand Commissioner Holland’s concern and understandably so. Today I celebrate 20 years with the Flagler Beach FD and this will be my 21st 4th of July show (even 98’s late show due to the wildfires). I want to assure the citizens of Flagler Beach & Flagler County that the Flagler Beach FD will do everything we can to make it a safe and enjoyable show for those who come out to see it. We will have trucks posted throughout the city with the help of the Bunnell & Palm Coast FD’s as well. 1 Engine will be at the pier, 1 Engine will be on the south side of town, 1 Engine on the north side of town, 1 Engine on the west side of the bridge, and an Attack truck in the center of town so that responses to incidents can be quick if something was to happen. This is not anything new due to the current conditions, it is the same thing that has been done for my tenure at the department. All apparatus will be fully staffed with at least 4 personnel on each piece of equipment. We all know traffic is a nightmare after the display is over, that is why we stage apparatus in so many locations. So I am Thankful to the County Commissioners for their time today and approval of the fireworks, and wish everyone a Happy 4th of July!!!!

  5. Elana Lee says:

    How nice to hear from a firefighter’s perspective! Thank you, Shane, for taking the time to post and for your 20 years of service!!

  6. sue dickinson says:

    So can my retail store legally sell fireworks?

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Sue, the county commission’s legal order made a single exception for the fireworks on the pier only. The commission chairman specified that the ban is still in place elsewhere, as it was before.

  7. Ella says:

    Commissioner Holland must be applauded for standing by what she believes.

  8. Donna says:

    AWSOME, been here all my life 54 years and have seen the peir on fire BUT the show MUST GO ON :)

  9. Mark Castleman says:

    I’m just visiting but it would wonderful if someone could point me to where I could get more information about the parade.

  10. Dee says:

    Yeah for Palm Coast!

  11. mara says:

    Way to keep the money IN the county, and the show local–thank you, commissioners who reconsidered! Now we don’t have to burn a bunch of gas to go to Daytona’s show.

    My only question now is, will the same vendor be putting on the Flagler Beach show? Because the other day, it was “too late to pull the show together on short notice” ;)

  12. flagler beach native says:

    hey dee welcome to florida

  13. Carol Fisher says:

    Mark Castleman, this is where to get more info on the Fourth of July parade in Flagler Beach. It starts at 10 am on July 4, and goes down A1A from about N. 5th street, to S. 5th street. Flagler Beach Fireworks and Parade Schedule on July 4, 2011

  14. Carol Fisher says:

    to Mara, yes, Santore is putting on the show. That’s the same company that has done it for many years. When Doug Baxter called them and they knew that we still wanted it, Santore found a way to make it happen.

  15. The Truth says:

    In the years I have been in Palm Coast, I never seen a group of ungrateful and non stop whining people in my life. I love this city, this county and all the surrounding cities, but it seems people around here are very ungrateful and constantly complaining about decisions that are made, things that are going on, lack of things that are going on, jobs, etc.

    This is the 4th of July weekend. Our drought index has dropped tremendously. Regardless of what happens, someone will find a reason to complain (whether the commission reversed the decision or not). The fact of the matter is that with these recent rains, our situation changed drastically. We are not out of the woods, but we are in much better shape. Many kids and adults enjoy this time of year and enjoy seeing the fireworks. It’s a sign of our nations freedom, so let’s enjoy it. Trust in our local fire departments to keep things under control as they always do and sit back, take a deep breath and stop thinking that something bad will always happen.

    Stay positive and your life will be much better, because in the end we all end up the same.

    Happy 4th everyone.

  16. PCPerson says:

    Ms, Holland should be voted out next election. This vote wasn’t very important and she showed her intelligence level. It was told that this year is no more riskier than before and she still says no. Why not just ban them every year? There is an inherent risk with fireworks every time. She may be hoping something does go wrong just so she can say “see I told you”.

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