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updated: 6/30/2012 12:11 AM

2 suburbs postpone fireworks shows; others a go so far

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  • Residents watch the end of the show during the Wauconda fireworks at Cook Park last year.

       Residents watch the end of the show during the Wauconda fireworks at Cook Park last year.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Vernon Hills 2009 fireworks

 
Daily Herald report

Fireworks shows in Wauconda and Round Lake Beach will be postponed because of fire risks worsened by the region's dry spell.

Most towns in the Northwest suburbs and DuPage County plan to proceed with their shows with caution. St. Charles will decide Monday morning whether to carry on with its show.

It rained in some Lake County towns Friday, but by then Wauconda and Round Lake Park District officials had already opted to delay the shows. A handful of fireworks shows in downstate Illinois have been canceled, too.

"(It was) a very difficult decision," Wauconda Mayor Mark Knigge said. "We understand that people plan their Fourth celebrations around the fireworks. But we are always looking out for the safety of our residents and the neighboring homes, and we want to make sure it's a safe event."

The relative lack of rainfall this spring and summer has left lawns and fields dry. That's led to more fires in Lake County than usual, Wauconda Fire Protection District officials said.

Wauconda officials consulted with the police, fire and parks departments, as well as the local emergency management agency, before deciding to nix the show, which was scheduled for July 3 at Cook Park. A new date has not been set.

"If something would happen, it's just not worth taking the risk," Knigge said.

The Round Lake Area Park District's fireworks show, planned for July 4 near Hook Lake, will be Sept. 2 instead.

"We need to have a permit, and the fire department was not issuing a permit due to the drought-like conditions," said Frank Palmisano, recreation program manager for the district. "It may rain a little bit, but it's not going to be significant enough to counteract the drought and dry conditions."

Postponing the show is the right thing to do, Palmisano said, and he believes people will understand.

"If we have conditions that are unsafe, we want to make sure we're taking care of all those people that are coming to view (the fireworks) as well as the rest of the community," he said.

Officials in other Lake County towns are studying weather reports before making changes to fireworks schedules.

The Grayslake Park District's fireworks show is Saturday night at Central Park. Executive Director Jeff Nehila said crews have been watering the ground around the launch site to alleviate concern.

Nehila doesn't sound worried.

"My assumption is, (if) we get a measurable amount of rain ... we'll be in the safe zone," he said.

Hawthorn Woods' fireworks show is still set for July 3 at Community Park, but officials are constantly monitoring the situation, police Cmdr. Gary Scharringhausen said.

Crews are doing some extra grass trimming and watering at the site, and a fire truck will be ready if fallout sparks a blaze, he said.

"If we feel at any point that it's unsafe for the public, we'll cancel," Scharringhausen said.

Libertyville's fireworks show remains set for July 4 at Butler Lake, but the vendor putting on the show will use smaller shells to reduce the height of explosions and the drift of sparks, Fire Chief Rich Carani said.

The weather also is prompting officials in some towns, including Wauconda, to remind people that private use of fireworks is banned.

Mundelein police sent a warning to the media this week, emphasizing the risk of fire because of the dry conditions.

"In an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fires caused each year by illegal fireworks, residents possessing or igniting even small amounts of the contraband explosives could be fined or arrested," the notice read.

Last year, five people were arrested on fireworks possession charges, Chief Raymond Rose said.

Buffalo Grove Village Manager Dane Bragg outlined the village's plans to ensure both safety and the preservation of its fireworks show if at all possible. It includes the watering the area at the Buffalo Grove Golf Course where the display is supposed to take place, a precaution many towns are taking to prevent the outbreak of fires.

Still, fire officials will be on hand to make the final determination as to whether the show can go on.

"If moderate to high winds are forecast and sufficient rainfall is not present, it may be necessary to cancel the fireworks display," Bragg wrote in a statement, "although the village's preference is to go forward with the show as scheduled for the enjoyment of our residents and their guests."

The outlook is brighter in Mount Prospect. The Mount Prospect Lions Club, which is putting on two fireworks shows during its village festival, recently had a meeting at Melas Park, the site of the display. While the grass in parts of the park is yellowing, the area around where the fireworks will be set off is well-irrigated and marked by greener turf, club President Barb Laz said.

Still, they're not guaranteeing anything just yet. The Mount Prospect Fire Department has the final call as to whether the show can proceed, and Laz hopes Friday's thunderstorms were a sign of wetter weather to come.

"We're just hoping that this rain comes through," Laz said.

The Lions Club of Elk Grove Village was pressing forward with its show in the face of the weather. Club President Mike Baumer said he couldn't imagine the group not putting on its fireworks display.

"This isn't any drier than we've had in past years, and we have a pretty open area where we're doing it," Baumer said. "I haven't heard that we're canceling it, and I wouldn't expect us to."

Displays in Aurora, Bensenville, Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn, Itasca, Lisle, Lombard, Naperville, Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace and Wheaton are set to go off as scheduled.

Itasca fireworks organizers said they're dousing the field at Hamilton Lakes, where their July 4 show is scheduled to take place, with roughly 1 million gallons of water a day to prepare it for stray sparks. Fireworks organizers in Aurora, Carol Stream and Lombard said they also are going the preventive watering route.

"We're watering the park, the complete park, every night after it's dark," said Jackie West, president of the Lombard Jaycees, which is sponsoring fireworks at 9:30 p.m. July 4 at Madison Meadow Park.

Naperville fire and police officials will be on hand July 3 when Ribfest shoots off fireworks at Knoch Park, and in Aurora, additional fire crews and equipment will be at the ready as fireworks light the sky above the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

"We are still planning to have the fireworks on July 3," said Julie Lichter with Naperville's Ribfest. "We will, as always, take precautions as necessary to make sure nothing will have any fire issues."

St. Charles park district and fire officials are considering canceling the July 4 fireworks display because of the consistently dry conditions.

Superintendent of Parks and Planning Laura Rudow park district and fire officials will meet Monday morning to determine if there is too much of a safety hazard for the show to proceed.

The fireworks are launched from Boy Scout Island, which is within 1,000 feet of many homes. There are also thousands of people who come to see the show.

One of the possibilities would be for officials to cancel but then reschedule the show if the dry conditions abate.

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