Dozens Of U.S. Cities Cancel Fireworks Show

Firework shows have been cancelled across the country due to dry conditions. The city of Rockville, Maryland, has also cancelled their show due to the lasting effects of a powerful wind storm over the weekend that left thousands without power. Robert Siegel talks to Tom Moore of the Rockville city council.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

More now on fireworks that won't happen. The area around Washington, D.C. is still recovering from the storm that blew in from the Midwest last Friday night. Tonight on the National Mall, there will be a huge fireworks display, as scheduled. But in some towns nearby, this year's fireworks have been cancelled.

Tom Moore is on the city council of Rockville, Maryland, which is a little north of the capital. Welcome to the program.

TOM MOORE: Thank you.

SIEGEL: No fireworks tonight in Rockville?

MOORE: None at all.

SIEGEL: Why not?

MOORE: We hold our fireworks at the campus of Montgomery College and the power lines are down across two of the three entrances to the campus. And there's just no way to do it safely.

SIEGEL: How about access on roads to Montgomery College, would that be generally easy for people or no?

MOORE: The main roads are clear. It was mostly a problem of getting people in and out. There's just - you can't get thousands of people in and out on one entrance. And so many people walk to the fireworks, and they would be having to walk across these lines that might be live. We had to make that call.

SIEGEL: And there's no alternative site that you could set up in a hurry to do this?

MOORE: There is not. The city manager and I sat down for about an hour looking at every bit of green space in the city, and there was no way to do it.

SIEGEL: Tough call or open and shut case?

MOORE: Very tough call. It's one of the big things that the city does each year to extend itself to the residents and the area. We get about 20,000 people every year. It's a big disappointment to a lot of people because we've had a lot of residents without power; some of them from these very downed lines. And one of the things I've heard all week long that people were looking forward to doing is going out and escaping the heat and going to see some fireworks.

SIEGEL: A cheering experience after a bad week. Was it all a consideration that those people whose power is out might need the resources from the city or from the fire department that might be diverted for the fireworks?

MOORE: That wasn't so much a consideration for us. The county that we sit in, Montgomery County, cancelled their fireworks and that's what they cited. For us, it really was just safety on that site. We didn't feel we could get the people in and out of there without somebody being hurt.

SIEGEL: Did you give a thought - I was thinking about this earlier - to just having the fireworks go off so that people might see them from afar? That is, they might, from their houses see the fireworks in the sky but not congregate on the grounds of the college.

MOORE: One of the things that's been tricky this week is getting the word out to people for different things. To say we're having fireworks but don't come, or we're having fireworks but stay within a certain distance, that is a complicated message to get out when a lot of people aren't getting any news except what they can get on their cell phones.

SIEGEL: So a clear, simple message was required and that was no fireworks.

MOORE: Yes.

SIEGEL: Have people in Rockville generally responded, to the extent that they can, favorably? Or have they been critical of you for taking their fun away?

MOORE: I think most people are understanding. You know, it really is a safety concern. The city is very straightforward when it communicates this kind of thing. We have had some frustrations spill over. I think it's more a frustration with the fact that people haven't had their power for five days now. You know, we got a note in questioning our judgment, our patriotism - all those things.

SIEGEL: Just your judgment and your patriotism.

MOORE: Oh, it was...

SIEGEL: Only that was questioned? Your intelligence, as well?

MOORE: It was pretty much the full list. It was an extensive letter.

SIEGEL: Tom Moore of the Rockville, Maryland city council, thanks for talking with us.

MOORE: Thanks so much.

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