No need for amateur fireworks

Published 7:04 pm Saturday, July 2, 2011

It’s easy to think of fireworks as having a special connection to Independence Day. Most of us grew up watching great displays of colorful, loud exploding shells in person or on television, often synchronized to patriotic music, sometimes seen from the back of a pickup truck with friends and family all stuffed to the brim on grilled hot dogs and hamburgers consumed in a tradition so engrained that it feels it could have come over on the Mayflower.

In fact, fireworks have been a part of the American celebration of Independence Day almost since the very beginning. Even as the Revolutionary War was being fought, citizens of Philadelphia celebrated on July 4, 1777, by ringing bells, firing guns, setting fires and lighting candles.

And in a letter to his wife after the Continental Congress had voted to declare America’s independence from Great Britain, John Adams wrote: “The day will be the most memorable in America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward, forevermore.”


Email newsletter signup

This year will be no different, at least on a municipal level. Suffolk will have two great fireworks displays, one downtown and another in Eclipse. Both are traditions with roots that go deep, and both will attract thousands of people eager to celebrate the great light of an independent United States of America.

But if you’re thinking of holding your own personal fireworks-fueled celebration this year, please think again. With Southeast Virginia in the midst of a moderate drought — and with the southern portion of Suffolk experiencing drought conditions that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration describes as “severe” — there’s just too much risk from errant sparks.

It’s easy to see the devastation that can be caused by wildfires. Just turn on the television during the nightly news or search for “Arizona wildfire,” and you’ll be confronted with some frightening headlines and images. Let’s make sure we don’t add Suffolk to those headlines this weekend. This year, especially, leave the fireworks to the professionals.