A Less-Than-Explosive Fourth of July

Fires, floods and budget cuts make for a less-than-explosive Independence Day.

July 3, 2011 -- In much of the country, Americans will have to celebrate the Fourth of July without a bang. With devastating droughts, fires, floods and budget cuts plaguing much of the nation, counties from New England to New Mexico have extinguished their fireworks festivities.

"Of course, a lack of fireworks is disappointing, but I think everyone understands that safety comes first and there are other ways to celebrate the weekend," said Samantha Park, a spokeswoman for Austin, Texas, where fireworks were cancelled because of a severe drought.

Texas is experiencing the driest eight-month period in more than a century. Consequentially, 179 of the state's 254 counties have banned fireworks.

This will be the first year in 35 years that Austin, the capital city, will not have a fireworks show.

"Everyone's going to miss their fireworks, but we've got to be safe first," Park said.

The Texas metropolises of San Antonio, Lubbock and Amarillo will also be fireworks free this year.

In New Mexico, where fires have engulfed huge parts of the state, Gov. Susana Martinez has called for a "fireworks free" Independence Day.

The Los Alamos fire raging in northern New Mexico, is, as of Friday, the largest fire in state history, having scorched more than 103,000 acres. Parched conditions have contributed to 987 fires burning more than 712,000 acres and costing the state $21.5 million this year.

"There is absolutely no reason to buy, sell, or use personal fireworks in New Mexico this summer," Martinez said in a news release. "The potential consequences are simply too severe."

State law prohibits a full-out ban on fireworks, but the governor declared a statewide emergency, urging people to refrain from buying or using them. Three of New Mexico's grocery stores have voluntarily pulled the explosives off their shelves. Smith's, Albertson's and Wal-Mart have each taken the "fireworks free" pledge.

"Everybody just needs to pull together and not use them," said Scott Darnell, a spokesman for the governor's office. "Were doing what we can, as far as increasing awareness, but we could still have some issues."

Darnell said some New Mexico cities are going forth with their fireworks shows in an attempt to discourage personal fireworks.

"Every firefighting personnel that governor has spoken with has said display fireworks that are controlled are usually sanctioned and sponsored and they keep people from lighting their own fireworks," he said.

Sparks will not fly in parts of South Dakota either. The Mt. Rushmore fireworks show was cancelled for the second straight year because a pine beetle infestation has killed hundreds of trees that are now "just tinder waiting to burn," said Joe Kafka, a spokesperson for the governor's office.

Water, not fire, caused Old Sturbridge Village, a historical site and museum just outside of Raleigh, Mass., to extinguish America's birthday candles after flood waters engulfed its fireworks launch site.

"It's a spectacular place for fireworks," said Ann Lindblad, the village's vice president of marketing. "We have no power lines or light pollution, so the sky really is a canvass for fireworks."

Lindblad said close to 5,000 people were expected to attend the show.

"They were so understanding and sad, but this is an act of nature that's beyond anyone's control," she said.

State Budgets Slash Fireworks Funding

In Minnesota, on the other hand, cancelled fireworks shows are well within someone's control. Because state lawmakers have not reached a budget deal, the state government has shut down, forcing state parks to close until a deal is reached. That means no camping, no grilling and no fireworks in any of Minnesota's more-than-70 state parks.

Canterbury Park, a horserace track outside of Minneapolis, has petitioned for an injunction so a race and fireworks show planned for Sunday can continue despite the shutdown. As of Friday, the park will have to turn away the 15,000 visitors expected to attend the event.

Budget crunches almost put an end to Cincinnati's fireworks show, but the event was rescued by a donation from Fifth Third Bank. A bank spokesperson said they stepped in order to uphold the "time-honored community celebration."

The same scenario played out in Redmond, Ore., where High Desert Aggregate and Paving pledged to foot the bill for the city's explosive celebration.