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Ashland cancels fireworks show

Courtesy photo. The Ashland Fourth of July fireworks show has been canceled.
Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday to temporarily ban fireworks in the city

Count the Ashland fireworks show as another heat wave casualty as the Ashland Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday that the annual event has been canceled because the fire risk, considering the soaring temperatures combined with the water shortage, is too great.

The decision was made by the Ashland Chamber board in a unanimous vote, according to Executive Director Sandra Slattery.

“It was fully unanimous,” she said, “absolutely recognizing it’s the right decision. Even though we could have gone forward and there was no one saying, ‘No, you can’t,’ sometimes you just have to make those tough decisions and this was one of them. It’s tough to make this decision.”

The Chamber consulted with the city of Ashland and Southern Oregon University before calling off the show, which is held on Sothern Oregon University-owned property adjacent to University Field. Funded by donations, the show costs about $10,000, but the total cost hits about $15,000 after insurance and security bills are thrown in.

Slattery said donors will be offered their money back, and she called the Canby company that produces the show, Western Display, to break the news Tuesday afternoon. Western Display offered to refund half the prepaid bill — a generous offer, Slattery said.

“It’s of course disappointing to them, and to everyone because it’s a beloved event,” she said. “But as we weighed all these considerations, safety is absolutely at the forefront of all our decision-making and it’s just that, given the dryness of the landscape and the fact that we’re looking at thunderstorms being predicted for the weekend, there’s just too many unknowns. To be able to forecast what it would actually be like on the night of the Fourth, we really don’t feel like it’s a wise decision to go forward.”

The Ashland Chamber had already called off the Fourth of July Parade in mid-May to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but decided at the time that a fireworks show was still manageable. The heat wave and water shortage changed all that.

“This is really completely related to the fact that we have this unprecedented time right now,” Slattery said. “And certainly there was a lot of trauma in our community that we also take into consideration. The fires that we’re having in Northern California right now combined with these incredibly hot temperatures and dry landscape is putting everybody on edge. And we understand and can relate to that very much so just multiple reasons why we just said, the conditions are such that we need to reconsider.”

Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday to temporarily ban fireworks through July 6 as part of a resolution declaring critical fire danger.

“The use of fireworks during times of critical fire danger presents unacceptable risk to the safety of human life and property in the city,” the resolution stated.

Across the border from Ashland, in Siskiyou County, California, where evacuations are underway from the Tennant and Lava fires, the towns of Mount Shasta and Yreka have banned the use of fireworks.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.