Fort Worth’s fireworks fizzle: Stop trying to have such big shows on the July Fourth holiday

Matt Leclercq/mleclercq@star-telegram.com
·3 min read

If Fort Worth ever has a city fireworks show again — and the future should be in doubt — it should never be on the Fourth of July holiday itself. Move it to a weekend night.

In this drought-ridden year, misuse of fireworks fueled a miserably busy Monday night for the Fort Worth Fire Department. As more than 200 grass and brush fires broke out around the city, six city fire trucks were tied up fighting fires at the officially sanctioned Fort Worth’s Fourth show sponsored by the Tarrant Regional Water District and Streams and Valleys. The show came to an abrupt end when the banks of the Trinity River went ablaze.

Both sponsors should reconsider. Originally, the fireworks show was meant to deter residents from staging their own. But having it on July 4 exhausts the city’s firefighters and equipment, and creates traffic jams on bridges citywide that block emergency vehicles.

We don’t want to be a buzzkill when it comes to celebrating our cherished independence. But in these historic drought conditions, leaders should have made the difficult call to cancel the large show entirely. The expense, the danger and the frustration of those who trekked downtown — was it all worth it?

Fort Worth wasn’t alone. In McKinney, for instance, officials stopped the show when they realized strong winds could carry embers farther than they anticipated, endangering spectators.

Of course, the strain on our responders wouldn’t be so bad if not for terrible judgment by so many residents. Firefighters pay the cost of the selfishness of those who break the law to set off fireworks within the city.

The debate over the city fireworks show has reignited every year for 45 years or more. If it were good for city shops and businesses, we’d say keep it. But this show is a hindrance to downtown business and to needed emergency services.

The show is not sponsored by the city. The water district originated it to draw attention, crowds and support for the Trinity River and Panther Island.

What happened Monday night did not make friends for either one.

Instead, water authority officials should reconsider whether they want to continue the show at all. It’s cool to bill it as the largest show in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and all that, but when it ends in a blaze after 5 minutes, you haven’t exactly crushed Addison’s Kaboom Town or Dallas’ Fair Park event.

If there are shows in the future, book them for the weekend before July Fourth, when more firefighters are available. The Rangers, the Fort Worth Symphony (in the Botanic Garden) and the Fort Worth Stockyards have put on successful fireworks shows in the past.

Arlington has had it right for years. That city’s fireworks are on July 3, with a parade on Independence Day. The night of July Fourth should be set aside to minimize the strain on first responders and public safety.

Everyone wants successful fireworks shows for the Fourth. Ideally, they deter more-dangerous amateur efforts in neighborhoods. But the No. 1 priority should be protecting emergency workers and fire department staffing for those in need.

What Fort Worth saw Monday night is no way to celebrate.