Freedom 4th fireworks debuting new safety measures this year

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Balloon Fiesta Park has a new safety feature that debuts Thursday night during Freedom 4th. It’s designed to keep you safe during the fireworks show. Local firefighters designed a special sprinkler system that will keep the danger away, should anything go wrong, and keep people safe as they enjoy their holiday.

“This is a controlled environment,” said Brian Fox with Albuquerque Fire Rescue. “It’s a safe environment for your family.”

Safety is the name of the game at this year’s Freedom 4th celebration for the Fourth of July, especially, when it comes to the night’s main event: the fireworks show.

“With a team effort, we’ve now come to a compromise and a system that will provide suppression to the fireworks racks,” said Fox.

Back in 2017, officials think there was a malfunction while setting off the fireworks and boxes of fireworks caught fire, but crews got lucky. They were able to contain the fire and let it burn itself out. After that incident, Albuquerque Fire Rescue set out to create a new feature to keep the public and workers safe at future events. It’s a sprinkler system of sorts.

“Two years ago, we had a small fire with the racks that the fireworks mortars are made out of. We ended up putting together a sprinkler system to protect those and provide fire suppression when those catch fire or if those catch fire,” said Fox. “We worked with the fireworks company that continues to do Freedom 4th and Balloon Fiesta and they were able to come out with their own technique after we had kind of put in place and shown them it can be done.”

As firefighters cover the area around the fireworks to stop a fire from spreading, the sprinkler system covers the “hot zone” – right here the fireworks are lit – by releasing water onto the wooden racks to keep them from catching fire. It’s also a useful tool to keep fire personnel away from the danger and potential of fireworks explosions.

“Our goal is to have suppression systems in place where we can keep both fire department personnel and personnel from the fireworks company out of the hot zone, which is what we refer to as the hazardous zone. We will be able to suppress any fires with the mortar casings without putting anyone in harm’s way,” said Fox. “Also, we have personnel in the warm zone from the fire department who will suppress fires in the vegetation and any other fires caused outside the hot zone.”

The City of Albuquerque hosts the Independence Day festivities and tens of thousands of people show up. The fire department is instrumental in helping this run smoothly.

“It’s a great thing to bring your whole family and it’s a free event and you can bring your own picnics and pop-ups and set up a little camp, so get there early,” said Bree Ortiz with the city’s Cultural Services department. “We work really closely with the fire department. Albuquerque Fire and Rescue meets with our fireworks vendor and they go over all the safety things.”

The fire department and event organizers are also prepared for any weather conditions that may impact the fireworks and fire safety. They have a set wind delay guideline prepared ahead of time which was used during last year’s show with a slight delay.

“If there’s any wind delays, we’ll go with two 15-minute wind delays and in the event that the wind does not change, after 30 minutes, we’ll end up canceling the show,” said Fox.

With safety top of mind, they hope people can, instead, focus on spending this time with their families. Moving forward from the past fire, local firefighters also feel much more prepared should anything like that happen again.

Freedom 4th kicks off at 3 p.m. at Balloon Fiesta Park with live music, kids activities, food vendors and a microbrew garden with local breweries, wineries and distilleries. The fireworks show starts at 9:15 tonight and is expected to wrap up around 10.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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