It just seems hard to get away from fire when you’re doing fireworks.
Thursday night’s inaugural Clark County Fourth at the Fairgrounds event was a big success, drawing an estimated 6,500 people, according to Mickey Webb, CEO of the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds.
But the event, intended to tamp down fireworks mayhem in Clark County neighborhoods — especially accidental fires — by providing a centralized, professional pyrotechnic display, still managed to generate a little accidental conflagration of its own.
“It was great til the fire started!” was a typical post on Facebook afterward.
“I remember the fort field catching on fire many times when we watched there,” posted another.
“All in all, we were pretty happy with it,” Webb said. “We were just disappointed that the fireworks display had to end early. We did have a pretty decent-sized grass fire.”
That fire was confined to the fireworks fallout zone just south of where the fireworks were being launched along Delfel Road, pretty far to the southeast of where people were gathered in the grandstands, Webb said. It was caused by sparks from a low-flying mortar, not by any fireworks malfunction, he added — but it did result in a substantial enough fire to prompt the fire marshal to stop the show early.
“We did have (Clark County) Fire District 6 on standby, on the grounds, and they were able to respond quickly,” Webb said. “But the fire marshal was concerned enough to cancel the rest of the event.”
In the end, Webb said, what was supposed to be a 25-minute fireworks display got stopped at the 15-minute mark.
“No structures were in danger, it was all in the grass,” he said. “But we always want to err on the side of safety.”
Firefighters on hand
At one point, there were about 30 spot fires caused by sparks, Fire District 6 Battalion Chief Bryan Baum said.
Firefighters at the event had their eyes on two nearby fields — one they were concerned about and another that had prompted little worry. The latter field ended up catching fire, Baum said.
“Grass about 3 feet tall, the wind was blowing; it made for a challenging response,” Baum said.
The on-scene fire crew requested a backup engine to respond, and the two teams were able to extinguish the spot fires in about 45 minutes.
Webb, a native of Tennessee who started his local job in time for last August’s Clark County Fair, added that he never experienced a Clark County Fourth of July before Thursday. It was a real eye-opener, he said — with a free fireworks display provided by the public, visible in many directions from the fairgrounds in the windup to the 10 p.m. show there.
“Everybody was getting a pre-show. You can see everybody’s personal fireworks in a 180 degree view to the south and east,” Webb said.
It’s hard to get food vendors to show up for a first-time event, Webb added, but those who did were happily besieged by customers. Those customers might not have been so happy about long lines and some food sellouts, Webb said, but the popularity of the event points to more food vendors next year.
“When you’re trying to do a large event for the first time, you’re going to have growing pains,” Webb said. “Even with those hiccups, we considered it a success.”
The Battle of the Bands, an eight-band competition decided by online voting, was won by Beat Frequency.