April 10, 2010

July 4 fireworks shows are cancelled on Hatteras and Ocracoke

New regulations coupled with lack of funding and a host of other factors have led to the cancellation of all three of the July 4 fireworks displays on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

In past year, there have been fireworks shows in Ocracoke, Hatteras village, and Avon.

"As far as I know we are not having any fireworks," said Rudy Austin, president of the Ocracoke Business and Civic Association.
Austin said that the Ocracoke fireworks were not cancelled because of an explosion on July 4 of last year that killed four people and badly injured another.  The dead and injured were contractors for a company that stages fireworks, and they were preparing for the annual show near the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching complex near the ferry docks in the village.
Austin said that there is construction in the area on the NCCAT property this year and that there was not another site suitable for the show.
He also noted that the cost of the fireworks were a concern, as were the new regulations that require all of the people, including local volunteers, who are involved receive special training.
The new regulations were approved by the North Carolina General Assembly after last year's July 4 tragedy on Ocracoke.
A day-long series of events are traditional on July 4 on Ocracoke, including the Old Time Parade through the villages. 

“The other events will go on,” Austin said, “the association is exploring having another event on the evening of July 4 to replace the fireworks.”

On Hatteras Island, while there may be other festivities to celebrate the holiday, there will be no fireworks displays in Hatteras village or Avon.

Dennis Robinson, president of the Hatteras Village Civic Association, which organizes and pays for the Hatteras village fireworks, said the association’s board made a decision in February to cancel this year’s show.

“We have cancelled our show,” said Robinson. “We had the fire company explain all the new regulations and give us an overview and a timeline, such as when the class and training could be and how long it would take to get the necessary permits after that. We reviewed this information and also talked about the money aspect and the liability, and the board came to the consensus not to have the show for 2010.

“It’s just for this year, and we will revisit it again for upcoming years” he said. “We’re also investigating possible other events and entertainment for the Fourth of July.”

Robinson also added that the National Park Service was willing to work with the Hatteras Civic Association in the annual launching of fireworks off of Ramp 55 in Hatteras village.

 “Steve Thompson, particularly, was willing to work with us in getting the permits to shoot them off the beach,” said Robinson. The committee did not have a chance to discuss with the Park Service the test shootings off the beach that would be required under the new regulations. 

On Friday, April 9, Kenny Brite, director of the Avon fireworks for 13 years, announced that Avon would be unable to have its annual fireworks display as well.

The new restrictions call for a training seminar immediately followed by a test administered by a state fire marshal representative, which includes a test launch of the fireworks. The seminar and class are required for all volunteers handling the fireworks. After months of trying to line up the necessary training seminar and test locally, Brite announced that Avon would be unable to complete the training.

Brite worked diligently with Steve Thompson of the National Park Service, who distributes the special use permits, and David Troutman of Pyro Shows, Inc., which provides the fireworks and helps local fireworks displays get certified. Brite noted that both parties did everything they could to help Avon carry on as scheduled, but a number of factors led to the cancellation.

A class and testing session were lined up for volunteers at the Avon Fire Station, but in the end, the Park Service was unable to issue a special use permit for the required test launch on the beach under the local law banning all fireworks on Hatteras Island.

An alternative class in New Bern was discussed, but it was extremely difficult logistically to send all volunteers (12 to 15 needed in Avon alone) to a class in another part of the state. In addition, the months of uncertainty about whether the fireworks would even be feasible led to a delay in normal fundraising operations, and it was not clear whether appropriate funds to pay for the display could be generated.

It appears that the closest fireworks display for island residents and visitors will be in Manteo, where the annual show is still scheduled.

Additional Information:  Fireworks are illegal on Hatteras and Ocracoke

Residents of and visitors to Hatteras and Ocracoke should be aware that all fireworks – including sparklers – are illegal on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.  Also, the National Park Service prohibits fireworks on all of the seashore beaches.

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