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Drought-weary California will be extra careful in its celebrations this Fourth of July weekend, with some communities canceling their official fireworks displays and others that used to allow residents to shoot off a few of their own saying not this year.
“As we head into the fourth summer of a severe drought, it is more important than ever that everyone use an abundance of caution to avoid sparking a fire,” CalFire director Chief Ken Pimlott said in a release on June 30.
Officials statewide have warned of the danger fireworks can pose with more than 71 percent of the state in a condition of extreme drought or worse as of July 2, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, affecting more than 37 million people.
More than 300 fires were started by fireworks last year, according to the state fire marshal.
Cambria, California has canceled its fireworks because of the fire risk in a nearby pine forest. The chamber of commerce in Bass Lake, about fifty miles northeast of Fresno, opted to replace their fireworks display with a more vegetation-friendly laser light show.
For at least one community, however, it was not the possibility of sparking a fire that put the kibosh on the annual display –- it was the water.
The city of Cupertino –- home of Apple headquarters -– made an early announcement at the end of May saying it would cancels its firework display, not so much out of fire concerns as because of the amount of water that would be required to pull the show off. It would have required more than 100,000 gallons of water to soak Cupertino High School’s artificial turf fields, and when the city couldn’t find an alternate venue, they scrubbed this year’s pyrotechnic display.
“People are very disappointed,” city spokesman Rick Kitson told NBC Bay Area. “Who doesn’t love fireworks? But overall, I think they get it.”
But in many other towns and cities, the show will go on. Fire and police officials in Los Angeles said they would be cracking down on illegal fireworks, but professional slows were slated to go on throughout LA and Orange County, from Alhambra to the Hollywood Bowl. Skies were also ready to light up all around the San Francisco area, including over the bay.
“All of our shows are going to happen and they’re going to be safe,” said Pyro Spectaculars CEO Jim Souza, whose company puts on some of the nation’s biggest fireworks extravaganzas. “We’ve taken extra precautions this year with awareness of the drought and we got ahead of it.”
California doesn’t generally require a permit for what are referred to as “safe and sane” fireworks –- a category that rules out rockets that fire high into the air or shoot close to the ground, Roman candles, and bottle rockets, according to guidelines published by CalFire.
Outside of the major cities, a few communities have said they are taking extra precautions this year. Kern County officials banned the use of any fireworks, except for authorized shows, in county parks.
“We’ve got some dangerously dry conditions at a lot of facilities out here,” said Allan Krauter, an analyst for Kern County. “We haven’t gotten any appreciable rain since the spring.”
--- CNBC’s Shannan Siemens contributed to this report.