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posted: 7/9/2012 4:55 PM

Pingree Grove fireworks show causes 15 brush fires

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The Pingree Grove Fire Protection District pulled the plug on the village's fireworks show's grand finale Saturday, because what preceded it set off 15 small brush fires, authorities said.

The three-minute grand finale would have involved 70 shells going off at once. And with fires already in progress, fire officials didn't want to chance it.

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"The potential for it to go bad was there, because they were taxed with what they are already putting out here and there," Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Childers said.

The show, which the village spent $11,000 to put on in a field near the Cambridge Lakes subdivision, was the culmination of a 6-hour Independence Day celebration for the small town west of Elgin in Kane County.

Nobody was hurt in the fires and because there are no homes nearby, there was no property damage.

But on the Pingree Grove Accountability Network Facebook page, three posters said the fireworks never should have gotten off the ground.

"The show should have been cancelled before it started," former Village President Wyman "Clint" Carey posted. "Drought, high winds etc ... other villages seemed to agree safety was more important than a party. The village needs to learn from this."

Several days before the fireworks show, authorities from the village, the fire protection district and the police department met to discuss whether the show should go on.

Officials were aware a few towns in the area had already canceled their fireworks shows, due to the extreme heat and drought conditions.

"A conversation did take place that if the fields were wet, that everything should be OK," Village Administrator Ken Lopez said. "Because initially, we had convinced ourselves it was too dry."

The night before the show, the village's water department sprayed the fields down.

As well, fire crews spent two hours watering the fields both the morning of the show and two hours before it, said Bill Misner, a shift supervisor with the fire protection district.

The fire department also was on hand at the celebration with an engine and a brush truck.

But authorities hadn't planned on the gusty winds during the event that they say blew the sparks out of the watered areas.

"If you have an idea of where the physical sparks are going to come down and that's where you anticipate things are going to land, and you water that area very heavily," Misner said. "If you have a wind shift, it can go anywhere."

Once the fields caught fire, the fire district shut down the rest of the show.

Two residents on the accountability Facebook page praised the fire district's decision to terminate the show and its subsequent response to the fires.

"Can you imagine the number of fires that would have been caused by the finale?" resident Gary Meyer posted. "It probably in all honesty would have caused a lot of damage. Therefore, I believe cancelling was the right call!"

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