Plans for Fourth of July fireworks in Haines have fizzled. The borough decided not to put on a fireworks show due to lack of a licensed pyrotechnician. Some sections of public beaches will be open to residents to set off their own fireworks. But the big show that lit up the sky in past years won’t be repeated next week.
Borough Manager Bill Seward says the bottom line is this: Haines is unable to meet the regulatory requirements to have a fireworks display this year.
“Our Borough Code and OSHA requires a licensed pyrotechnician to facilitate the show,” Seward said. “And we were unable to meet those regulatory requirements.”
Code prohibits anyone besides a licensed pyrotechnician to discharge fireworks within 250 feet of borough port facilities. In the past, Haines pyrotechnician Phillip Wilde put on the display at Portage Cove. But tourism director Leslie Ross says Wilde decided not to renew his license, and the borough doesn’t know of any other local licensed pyrotechnicians to turn to. Ross says the borough was in a similar situation a few years ago.
“It was one of the first things I had to do was cancel the fireworks which was a heartbreaking decision to make,” Ross says. “But it was going to be about $10,000 to bring a licensed pyrotechnic down from Anchorage.”
But that doesn’t mean the skies will be dark. The borough is giving permission for residents to light off fireworks on Portage Cove Beach on the North side of the cruise ship dock, at the gravel parking lot at Picture Point and the gravel pull-down area on the beach of Picture Point.
(Fireworks are not allowed on the Southwest side of the cruise ship dock or on the grassy area or developed pullout of Picture Point.)
Ross says, the Fourth of July fanfare won’t be the same, but it will be something.
“I mean, Phil Wilde is talented at what he does and he knows how to put on a show that builds up and has a big crescendo at the end. So we won’t have that, but the year we cancelled it it was still fun and festive and people were watching it.”
Now, Ross and Seward say they want to come up with a plan to avoid this situation in years to come.
“We’re hoping to take all the lessons learned and proceed forward with something folks can enjoy,” Seward said. “And next year we’re hoping to partner with Skagway in obtaining a licensed pyrotechnic to do our Fourth of July celebration for us.”
“Yeah, I think that we would definitely be interested in at least engaging in the conversation,” said Skagway Tourism Director Cody Jennings.
She says the Gateway to the Klondike has been without a big Independence Day fireworks show for a few years now. She says splitting the cost of bringing a pyrotechnician to the Upper Lynn Canal sounds like a good idea. He or she could set off fireworks in Skagway on July 3 and Haines July 4.
“I think that the fireworks was something that was a welcome part of our Fourth of July festivities and I think a lot of people were disappointed when they stopped that component of our festival,” Jennings said.
This year, both Haines and Skagway may see smaller fireworks explode in the sky. But with collaboration possible next year, a bigger spectacle may be on the horizon.