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City fireworks show under threat of cancellation

Plans to hold this year’s Fourth of July fireworks show at Claremont High School have been scratched after the school district rescinded its offer to host festivities.

According to Jim Elsasser, CUSD superintendent, fire concerns forced the district to back out.

“After the final walk through, concerns were raised about the possibility of fire,” Mr. Elsasser explained.

Of greatest concern to the school district is a cluster of mature olive trees located on the southwest corner of campus facing Oxford Avenue. The trees are exceptionally dry due to prolonged drought. District staff felt that fallout from a fireworks sky show could easily ignite the trees.

Steve Collins, chairman of the Claremont Independence Day Committee, is disappointed in the school district’s decision.

“I understand we’re trying to err on the side of caution,” Mr. Collins said. “The problem is that those who made this decision didn’t have any experience or information with fireworks.”

Mr. Collins went on to say that cancelling the show this year could change the Fourth of July in Claremont for years to come.

“If we do it this year, we’re apt to do it next year and the next,” he said. “If we do it several years in a row, we won’t be left with much of a city celebration.”

After discussing the district’s concerns with fireworks technicians and members of local fire departments, Mr. Collins and most of the committee members feel that fire concerns are unwarranted.

“The fallout zone is equal to about 70 feet times the size of the shell,” according to Mr. Collins. “In a show like this, they use a 2.5-inch shell, which requires about 175 feet of fall out zone. That’s a little less than 60 yards.”

If the fireworks are shot over the eastern portion of the CHS athletic field, that leaves about 200 yards before fallout could reach the trees, Mr. Collins explained.

“You’re way beyond where you need to be to be safe. We’re not shooting that large of shells anyway,” he said.

Another possibility, Mr. Collins said, would be to shoot them off of the gym roof or the locker room roof.

“Even if we do a smaller scale show, we’ve got to make it happen.  I don’t mind changing things if we need to but we just can’t do Fourth of July in Claremont without fireworks,” Mr. Collins said.

City Manager Tony Ramos assures residents that Independence Day will go on in Claremont.

“It will go back to the Fourth of July Committee and they will collaborate and decide what to do next,” Mr. Ramos said. “The city will continue with all of our normal Fourth of July activities.”

Claremont’s fireworks show is typically held at Pomona College’s Strehle Field but the college backed out this year as a result of water restrictions. As much as 400,000 to 500,000 gallons of water is needed to keep the wash area and soccer field around the fireworks show from igniting, Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor told the Independence Day Committee earlier this month.

Finding a home for the city’s annual fireworks show was set to go to the city council tonight. The item has since been pulled for consideration of approval. The Independence Day Committee has scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday, May 13.

The city council will meet tonight, Tuesday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m. at city hall. Public comment will be open to address council and city staff.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

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