Three Douglas County fireworks shows planned for the Fourth of July were canceled Thursday due to fire danger.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, who also serves as the county fire marshal, declared that the county is under Stage Two fire restrictions. This action barred the shows, slated to take place in Highlands Ranch, the Pinery and Castle Rock.
Earlier, members of the BackCountry neighborhood in Highlands Ranch had exchanged emails with county officials over the residents' concerns about the planned Highlands Ranch fireworks display.
That neighborhood had been threatened Monday when a 460-acre fire burned across unincorporated Douglas County, causing mandatory evacuations. BackCountry residents were required to leave their homes as the flames inched toward heir community.
While there ultimately was no structure damage or injuries, some residents reported stress and anxiety around the event.
When Todd Varney, president of the BackCountry community’s homeowners association, heard that fireworks were planned to launch from Mountain Vista High School for the Fourth of July weekend, he and the other board members decided to take action.
In a letter to the board of county commissioners, the HOA asked them to delay the fireworks display.
“While we applaud your decision to help our county celebrate our independence, we don’t believe that this site is the best to keep our neighborhoods safe, especially with the thousands of acres of open space surrounding the high school site on 3 sides,” the letter said. “Our neighborhood is very concerned with fire danger, especially in light of recent events.”
Commissioner Lora Thomas responded in an email that was forwarded to the BackCountry community. In her response, she explained that a committee made up of South Metro Fire Rescue and Sheriff’s Office personnel had researched conditions for fireworks.
“I’d like to also let you know how prepared Douglas County is to fight a fire,” her response said. “When the fireworks are launched, there will be firefighters on scene. ... As in every professional display, a detailed plan is developed to ensure safety for all involved.”
Thomas added that one reason the commissioners wanted to hold the fireworks shows is because of the difficult times the community has recently seen.
“Our community has struggled through the COVID shutdowns since mid-March and the commissioners wanted to celebrate the freedoms established by the Declaration of Independence from July 4, 1776; to remind the residents that this is America and we will survive,” said according to the email, confirmed by Thomas.
BackCountry resident Beverly Fields was one of the people alerted to the evacuation order June 29 when the wildfire threatened her neighborhood.
“It's very disturbing and scary. You’re just not sure when you’re told to evacuate. ... Am I going to have a home when I come back?” she said.
When she learned that the county was planning a fireworks display at nearby Mountain Vista, Fields said she and other residents reached out to the county individually to express their concerns.
“They listened but their attitude was, we’re still going to go ahead,” Fields said. “I don’t understand how anyone felt this was a good idea. It just didn’t make sense.”
Thomas said she had heard from many residents who wanted the show canceled, but also from community members who wanted to see the display.
“We were letting the sheriff do his job,” she said. “It’s just important for them to know that we were listening, but we were listening to all of them.”
Commissioners plan to discuss when to reschedule fireworks shows in the future.
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