Castle Rock, CO, USA — Castle Rock’s Fourth of July celebration was cut short when the town’s professional fireworks display ignited a brush fire near Quarry Mesa. More than 5,000 spectators were at Rhyolite Park for the display, which came to a sudden halt at 9:35 p.m., about 20 minutes after it began.
Hot, dry and windy conditions were blamed for the flames, a result of fireworks fallout from the professional display.
Four separate brush fires burned 3 acres of thick brush as a result of the flame, said Art Morales, chief of the Caste Rock Fire and Rescue Department.
The fire department called a halt to the show. While many spectators complained about the abrupt end to the fireworks display – which came without explanation – firefighters placed personal safety above entertainment as most of the town’s firefighting crews worked to contain the fire.
The fires started on the north side of the mesa near Rhyolite Park and the fire department reported no injuries or property damage as a result of the fire.
The fire department had five firefighters stationed at the park with an ambulance and brush truck. Eight additional firefighters with a brush truck and fire engine were staged near Haystack Road, where the fire started.
All available crews responded to the mesa, where darkness and thick brush made access to the fire difficult, Morales said.
The fires were under control by 3 a.m., with crews remaining on site throughout the night to manage reignition of hot spots.
“We had preplanned the event and located where the fires might occur,” Morales said. “We were fortunate in that we had staffed extra brush trucks and had pre-staged them in the area along Haystack Road. The high temperatures of the day and single-digit relative humidity made conditions prime for a brush fire. Due to the heavy scrub oak on the north side of the mesa, we weren’t able to access the fire until it crested the mesa. Attack efforts then commenced from the burned areas to the unburned.”
Castle Rock crews received assistance from the Larkspur Fire Protection District to help respond to fires in the area, which included a fire in Founders Village. Between 4:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., the Castle Rock Fire and Rescue Department responded to 10 brush fires throughout town, most of which were caused by personal fireworks.
The incident at Rhyolite Park was not the first time a Castle Rock fire display ignited a fire, Morales said. In 1987 the town’s fireworks display commenced from the famed rock overlooking Castle Rock. At that event, much of Rock Park was burned when an accidental ignition set off the entire fireworks cache, Morales said.
“During the Fourth of July season, we always see an increase in brush fires, especially when conditions are as dry and hot as they are now,” Morales said. “For this reason, we ensure we are prepared through adequate staffing and careful planning. Even professional firework shows are susceptible to accidental fires that can be caused by low detonations and fireworks fallout that may be burning. The prevailing winds play a big part in where the fallout lands.”