Fire ban snuffs business
July 11, 2019
Fire danger over the Fourth of July holiday doused the scheduled fireworks display in Haines and cost local pyrotechnician Phil Wilde up to $20,000 in lost profit.
On June 27, the Alaska Department of Public Safety instituted a burn ban in much of the state, including suspending the sale and use of fireworks, due to persistent warm, dry weather.
Wilde, who sells fireworks year-round from his stand WildeFire Pyrotechnics at 27 Mile Haines Highway, said the ban took effect just when his season would have picked up.
“I do a lot of sales between June 2 and July 10, so this shut me down,” Wilde said last week. “With a state fire ban, my firework retail permit is suspended.”
Wilde sells fireworks to individuals in Juneau, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Ketchikan, Yakutat and Haines.
For the past three years, Robby Harris has drawn customers to his Fourth of July pig roast at 33 Mile Roadhouse with the promise of a fireworks show. With no colorful explosions this year, Harris said turnout was down significantly.
“We definitely felt it, for sure,” Harris said. Harris sold 83 pig plates, which is about 50 less than years past. Normally, customers hang around until the food is gone to catch the show, but this year visitors left earlier, he said.
Haines is not alone. Retailers all over the state lost out on a normally busy season.
The owner of Gorilla Fireworks, with retail stands in Houston and North Pole, said Alaska retailers have all “lost a season.”
“We’re in a weather-sensitive business,” owner Bob Hall said. He hopes to make up some lost profit with the New Year’s holiday. “We’re fortunate that Alaskans like to bring in New Year with a bang.”
As of June 27, the state Division of Forestry reported 102 uncontained forest fires. On July 6, a three-square-mile fire jumped the Alaska Highway about 300 miles from Haines, shutting it down for six hours over the weekend.
In Haines, the fire index remains very high, said fire chief Al Giddings.
The fireworks ban will remain in place until further notice, and includes the use of burn barrels, campfires and beach fires.
The Haines Borough Water Department prohibited the use of lawn sprinklers to conserve water until further notice.