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Hot, Dry Weather Has Officials Taking Extra Precautions For Fireworks Shows

Generic Fireworks (AP Photo/Disney, Matt Stroshane)

Generic Fireworks (AP Photo/Disney, Matt Stroshane)

Dana Kozlov Dana Kozlov
Dana Kozlov is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. She...
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PARK RIDGE, Ill. (CBS) – While some suburbs have canceled or postponed their fireworks shows on July 3 or July 4 due to the hot and dry conditions, many suburbs are deciding to go on with the show, while taking extra precautions to avoid setting fires.

The long stretch of hot, dry weather in the Chicago area has prompted the Evanston Fire Department and other municipalities to hose down trees, grass and shrubs before their fireworks shows, to avoid sparking a big fire.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, in Park Ridge, people will be staking their spot at the Maine East High School athletic field, for the town’s traditional Independence Day Eve fireworks show on Tuesday, though some might wait until closer to sunset to avoid the heat.

No matter when they come out, or when the show starts, safety is a top concern for suburbs across the area, where fireworks shows are planned for July 3 and July 4.

Officials hosting a fireworks safety demonstration in Mount Prospect got a surprising real-life example of how dangerous fireworks can be when the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance’s Laura Barros suffered a third-degree burn on her foot, after an ember from a firework seared a hole in her foot.

“Just a little spark, and that’s what happens,” Barros said.

Hillside Fire Chief Michael Kuryla, who heads up the Cook County Fire Chiefs Association, said, “I am sick about what happened to Laura.”

Barros pointed out, that if that same ember had landed on dry grass, it would have sparked a fire.

“It would have gone up immediately,” she said.

That’s something firework experts and event producers are acutely aware of this dry holiday season.

Rick Staback, senior asset manager at Hamilton Partners, Inc., said the fire department in Itasca initially wouldn’t grant his company a permit to host a fireworks show there.

“The fire department issues the permits, and last week they came out and said, based on the conditions of the ground, and the dryness, they would not issue us a permit to host the fireworks show,” he said.

But Stabeck said Itasca officials relented when he assured them the company would amply irrigate the field to avoid setting a fire.

So the show will go on in Itasca. The fireworks display will be at 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday at Hamilton Lakes near Thorndale Avenue and Interstate 355, after live music starting at 6 p.m.

Wynn Cramer, an event producer at Melrose Pyrotechnics, said he’s not worried about the dry conditions.

“No, I’ve put actually shot two shows in the past week,” Cramer said, without any problems.

But other towns are concerned. At least eight suburbs have canceled or postponed fireworks shows this year, in almost all cases due to the hot and dry conditions.

In Evanston on Tuesday, fire crews were out hosing down parks ahead of Wednesday’s fireworks.

Fire Division Chief Tom Janetske said, “For public safety, we want to make sure that the ground is moist, and that we don’t have any fires.”

Fire officials said, big or small, fireworks pose a fire and safety risk.

“In any hands, trained or untrained, these are very, very dangerous,” Kuryla said.

For a complete list of firework shows and cancellations, visit www.cbschicago.com/fireworks.