The Gering City Council this week approved three special event permits for fireworks shows from late June to early July, but not without certain stipulations related to fire weather conditions.
Fire Chief Nathan Flowers expressed some concerns about drought conditions in the area as permit requests were being considered for pyrotechnics for a Member-Guest Golf tournament at Monument Shadows, a show for the Western Nebraska Pioneers at Oregon Trail Park Stadium, and the Allred Brothers annual show.
Flowers noted that this year, the Gering Fire Department has already responded to 22 grass or brush fires through May 23, compared to five during the same time in 2019, eight in 2020, and only two in the comparable period last year, and asked for some input on whether the shows will go on.
“If we approve the permit based off the stipulation of established parameters by the Fire Department that must be met prior to the event, and if we can meet those a day or two, or three days prior to the event, then it can occur,” said Flowers. “If we can’t meet those based on some parameters, for instance, a Red Flag Day. If there’s a Red Flag Day going on at the same time as a fireworks event, that’s pretty concerning.”
Of particular concern is the seemingly stronger and more persistent than normal winds in the area this spring. Flowers noted Keith County and the city of Ogallala have already banned fireworks, and our region is basically in the same condition as that part of southwestern Nebraska.
Justin Allred, speaking for the other show producers as well as his own production, said none of the organizers want to cause a wildfire situation, and that discussions about weather conditions are always a consideration of if, and when, a show can proceed. Allred said there was no problem with working together on those considerations, but there were others that have to be addressed.
“The contingencies for us really are, coming down to the fact that for the big (Allred) show, and the golf course show, those fireworks are not purchased until June 25th. We (already) have a small inventory on hand for the Pioneers show coming up,” said Allred. In addition, he said there are funds provided from sources such as Keno proceeds and sponsorships for related expenses, some of which have already been spent and can’t be recouped.
Ultimately, the council gave unanimous approval to all three permits allowing the use of city property for the shows, but contingent on organizers working with staff to monitor weather and ground-cover conditions, and be in agreement those are favorable before the shows can go on.