This year’s Fourth of July celebration will be markedly less festive.

Haines Borough manager Bill Seward canceled the annual fireworks show after learning resident Phil Wilde’s state-issued pyrotechnician license had expired in March.

“It’s kind of like I had to be the Grinch who stole Christmas on this one,” Seward said.

The show was also canceled in 2014, when Wilde quit putting on the show citing “drama, politics and stress,” though he returned in 2015 to put on a scaled-down show using consumer-grade fireworks at the Port Chilkoot Dock.

During a Fourth of July planning meeting held last week between Wilde and borough staff, Wilde produced his expired license.

“He pulled it out of his wallet, showed it to me. It was expired,” Seward said. “I was like, ‘Well, can you get a new license?’ (He said) ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ And I was like, ‘Well, then we can’t do this.’”

Researching code prior to the meeting, Seward learned “it is unlawful for any person other than a licensed pyrotechnician who has a contract with the borough and their agents and employees to discharge fireworks” near the borough’s port facilities.

“Say someone gets hurt and we have to make them whole and our insurance company is put in an awkward position, they are going to turn to us (and say), ‘Well, why didn’t you follow your own code?’” Seward said. “The bottom line is it was too risky.”

According to the Department of Public Safety’s website, there are 19 licensed pyrotechnic operators in Alaska. To renew a license, an operator must pass a written exam administered by the Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire and Life Safety office.

Wilde said he isn’t interested in taking the test again.

“The borough manager has only been in here for five whopping days. And he shut it down,” Wilde said.

Though the show costs $2,000, Wilde said that only covers the actual stock of fireworks, and he effectively volunteers his time igniting them.

Seward said that doesn’t matter, liability-wise, because the Occupational Health and Safety Administration considers volunteers employees.

“If you have volunteers, you’re indemnifying them. They are doing it for us. That poses liabilities,” he said. “If they get hurt on the job, it would fall under workman’s comp. OSHA rules apply. And this would apply in this case. If something were to happen, we would fall under close scrutiny.”

Wilde said he is hoping the public will pressure Seward to change his mind.

“I’m waiting for the city of Haines to flood his office with phone calls,” Wilde said. “I am holding out for eight buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a bottle of cognac and a notarized letter of apology to the residents of Haines.”

Wilde is putting on a “private” fireworks show at the 33 Mile disc golf course at 10:30 p.m. on July 4. The area will be mowed to create a makeshift parking lot for about 120 vehicles, he said.

Wilde will be using the same kind of consumer-grade (as opposed to commercial-grade) fireworks he used to put on the 2015 show.

Resident Erik Stevens said the canceled fireworks plus cancellation of a Fort Seward music festival would put a damper on a visit by his sister and 10 friends who are coming here for the holiday.

“It’s a bummer. They were kind of expecting those things. I haven’t told them they’re canceled. I’m hoping someone will come up with an alternate plan but if nothing’s going on here, we might just go to Skagway. It’s sad to say that and I’d hate to have to do it.”

Putting on the Fourth of July fireworks show has become more complicated in recent years. It was sponsored for decades by the Haines Chamber of Commerce, with major funding from local donations and a municipal grant. Due to insurance concerns, responsibility for the show shifted to the municipality several years ago.

The borough is working on a plan similar to one in 2014, when the municipality temporarily lifted the townsite ban on fireworks and designated specific borough spaces for residents to set off their own fireworks. (See map at left for allowed areas).

Seward said he would be recommending to the fire chief and police chief that the borough establish buffer zones between the designated spots and private property, as in 2014 the borough had to reimburse a private property owner for damage.

“We can’t allow folks to go and set other people’s stuff on fire,” he said.