Our View: Fireworks show contorts reality

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Some days it just seems like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Rod Serling steps from behind a tree and begins his monologue that will take viewers on a journey to some alternate reality.

So it was with Friday’s announcement from the Kiwanis Club that this year’s 4th of July fireworks show is on for Overlook Park in White Rock. Indeed, the day’s top story regarding the impending closure of Santa Fe National Forest due to extreme fire danger juxtaposed with the Kiwanis statement was a study in contradiction.

On the one hand, the county council and fire chief are moving to extend the ban on fireworks for another month, yet the Kiwanis Club would appear to be exempt.

There’s no question that just about everybody loves a good fireworks show. Fireworks on the 4th of July rank right up there with saluting the flag and a slice of mom’s apple pie. It’s part of what defines us as being uniquely American. The annual event is also the major fundraiser for Kiwanis and the club is no doubt missing the revenue generated in light of the show’s cancellation the past two years. Like all of this town’s civic clubs, the Kiwanis do good work with the bucks they take in from events like the fireworks show. But, in this instance, one has to wonder if the risks are worth the rewards.

Barring the unlikely prospect that the heavens will open up and deliver several inches of much-needed precipitation between now and July 4, the idea that the fireworks show will actually happen raises some troubling questions.

First of all, how much time and, more importantly, taxpayer dollars have already been invested in the fire department’s developing the “detailed event response planning… that provided the necessary confidence that the Kiwanis Firework Show can be conducted with utmost safety.” There was no mention in the Kiwanis press statement regarding whether the club picked up the tab or if indeed taxpayers footed the bill.

Secondly, how did Los Alamos National Laboratory get involved? “The Kiwanis Club members worked with experts from LANL to provide detailed technical analysis of the display coverage zone,” according to the club’s press release. While it’s understandable that LANL strives to be a good corporate citizen in Los Alamos, it does strain reality to think that this technical analysis falls within the purview of the lab’s mission. Did the Kiwanis Club shell out the big bucks to cover the costs of this sophisticated analysis?

A more likely scenario is that these “LANL experts” volunteered their time to help the Kiwanis Club pull off mission improbable: a fireworks show in a tinder box with a guarantee of “utmost safety.”

Make no mistake, this multimedia news and information organization supports the good work that all of the civic clubs perform in this community. But a little more transparency is always a good thing. It would behoove the Kiwanis Club to include more details regarding how much all this activity by the Los Alamos Fire Department and the lab cost; and in these days of fiscal constraint, whether or not taxpayer dollars were used in the process.

Those questions don’t even begin to address the costs associated with providing fire protection during the fireworks show. LAFD personnel will have to cover the show area like a blanket, and then what becomes of fire protection for the rest of the town during the event? Will the additional personnel be racking up overtime? What becomes of response times should a fire break out somewhere else during the fireworks show? Again, who is picking up the tab? If it is the taxpayers, then this is sheer folly.

It’s a shame that Rod Serling isn’t still around. He’d be perfect to emcee the fireworks show.