Swamped barge delays GL fireworks
Special to the Sky-Hi News
By 10:30 p.m. on Monday night at the town beach in Grand Lake, the sounds of plastic coolers dragging along the concrete was clearly audible as several groups of visitors gave up waiting for an Independence Day fireworks show that was scheduled to start at 10 p.m.
At 10:34, Grand Lake Fire tweeted that the show would start in 10 minutes. Information started filtering through the crowd that the barge had become stuck in shallow water near the East Inlet boat ramp. This is the first year that the barges have been loaded on the east end of the lake, rather than the old location adjacent to the town beach. The change was made based on the safety concerns related to rigging explosives near a crowded public beach.
Acting Lieutenant Mike Arnston said the shallowness issue didn’t present itself until very late in the process. The Fire Department sent 12 crewmen, along with the Fire Department’s boat, to the launch area to assist with getting the barges loose. The fireboat towed the barges loose, at which point they were able to move the barges to the middle of the lake to start the show. They had to complete some of the final wiring in the dark.
“To be honest, we were really happy we managed to keep [the delay] to only an hour,” Arnston said.
The first charge sounded off at 10:56 p.m. to wild cheering and applause from the crowds that had stuck around. The show lasted 21 minutes, complete with a thunderous finale.
It was the second mishap in three years for the Grand Lake firework show. In 2014 a shell detonated on the surface of one of the barges, injuring fireworks facilitators and ending the show after only 10 minutes.
B and K Explosives had been in charge of the putting together the display in Grand Lake for 35 years, but the town switched contractors after 2014.
Dozens of individuals posted messages to the Chamber’s twitter account and comments on its facebook page expressing frustration about the delay, as well as the lack of updates on the status of the show. Some left after 45 minutes of waiting, only to hear the sounds of fireworks as they drove away from town.
In an update sent out Monday, Grand Lake Chamber Executive Director Samantha Bruegger thanked community members and visitors for their patience and said that a new official communication plan is in place that would allow for updates to be posted on social media. She said that the Chamber had not previously been authorized to post information relating to the event and had relied instead on the Fire Department.
A community meeting involving the Chamber, Town, and Fire Department among others took place Tuesday to discuss what went wrong and plan for Grand Lake’s next firework show on September 17 to commemorate Constitution Day.
“We will show what we can do and that we have things figured out,” Bruegger said.
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Grand County will remove all fire restrictions on Wednesday after having some level of heightened regulations since June.