Benton officials cancel fireworks extravaganza
The continued hot, dry weather has resulted in another cancellation: the fireworks extravaganza that was to be the concluding event of Benton's first Freedom Fest.
Benton Fire Chief Bill Ford announced late Monday that the fireworks display has been canceled out of safety concerns.
"As everyone should know, the state of Arkansas is under severe drought conditions," Ford said.
"Over the weekend the Arkansas Forestry Commission upgraded the status from 'high fire danger' to 'extreme fire danger,'" he noted.
After Ford discussed the issue with Mayor David Mattingly, Police Chief Kirk Lane and other city officials, the decision was made to suspend the fireworks display at Freedom Fest.
"This decision is being made for the safety and welfare of our citizens and property," Ford said.
Ford noted that the Arkansas Forestry Commission and the National Weather Service have issued releases noting that the entire state is in "an extreme fire danger alert."
"We still encourage everyone to attend the Benton Freedom Fest," Ford added.
On Monday, Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs announced that that city's Fourth of July fireworks display planned for Bishop Park also was being canceled.
Dabbs said her concern was the continued dry conditions in the Saline County area.
"Everything is so dry out there right now. We have to make safety our top priority," she said.
The official word was given by Bryant Police Chief Mark Kizer, who said, "Per Mayor Dabbs and acting fire chief Brandon Futch, the Bryant fireworks (display) is canceled due to extreme dry conditions. The fireworks will be shot on Fall Fest, as of right now."
Kizer added that the city had "too much to lose" if a fire were to start as a result of the fireworks.
Several other cities also have canceled their fireworks shows.
Because of the continued dry conditions, a countywide burn ban remains in effect and Saline County residents are prohibited from the discharge of fireworks.
Benton officials also have prohibited the sale of fireworks while the ban is in place.
According to the Arkansas Forestry Commission, burn bans are in effect in all but five of the state's 75 counties.