CHICAGO (CBS) — As local residents prepare to celebrate the 4th of July amid record-tying heat, firefighters and fireworks companies were facing different kinds of challenges in getting ready for the night’s fireworks displays.
Though several towns have scrapped their fireworks shows due to the hot, dry conditions, the ones that didn’t were operating with extra precautions in place.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, normally the tennis courts at Oak Park-River Forest High School would be filling up with spectators for the 4th of July fireworks show hours in advance, but this year the heat appeared to be keeping people away early on.
However, for the men and women who blow off the fireworks, the show must go on.
Workers from Mad Bomber Fireworks Productions were untangling strings of explosive shells, as they prepared to blast them into the sky over Oak Park-River Forest High School’s baseball diamond Wednesday night.
Pablo Cruz was in charge of setting up the fireworks show and said, if it weren’t for the school’s underground sprinkler, this year’s show would have been a no go.
“If it was all dried out, we wouldn’t be able to shoot at all,” he said. The only reason the show can go on is because the grass has been heavily watered before Wednesday’s fireworks display.
In addition, during the show, extra firefighters will be standing by, ready to water the school’s roof, in case any burning embers fall on the building.
“They will be up on the roof, watching for any spots that go up on top of the roof,” said Oak Park Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Kevin Wiley.
He said, just as much as he’s concerned about a possible fire, he’s also worried about the impact of Wednesday’s heat. That’s why more ambulances will be in the area than in years past.
“We’re probably going to be more particular about the spectators themselves, with heat problems,” he said.
Meantime, about 18 miles away in Glen Ellyn, spectators began reserving their spots around Lake Ellyn, more than 12 hours before the town’s fireworks show was set to start.
“We actually were here at 6:15, and you can see some of the prime spots were already taken,” said Kevin Carter.
But Anna Carter knows a prime spot when she sees it, and on Wednesday it was not next to the lake, but in it. Unfortunately for her, her dad was keeping her out, since swimming isn’t allowed there.
Glen Ellyn Fire Lt. Craig Eldridge said he and many other people in the storm-ravaged town were still without power on Wednesday, so if they can’t beat the heat, they might as well embrace it.
According to ComEd, approximately 8,000 customers were still without power as of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, after Sunday’s storm knocked out power to more than 300,000 homes and businesses, mostly in the western suburbs.
The vast majority of the remaining outages should be restored by late Wednesday, according to ComEd.
There was a meeting in Glen Ellyn on Tuesday to discuss whether the parade and fireworks should be held in light of the damage left behind by Sunday’s storm, but town leaders decided to go forward with the Independence Day events to give people something to cheer about amid all the destruction.