Many people are asking about plans for Independence Day fireworks in Imperial Beach. I will explain why IB is not holding fireworks this July 4th in the spirit of transparency for our residents.
By way of background, I should note that during my 10 plus years on the City Council we have gone from regular annual fireworks to a budget-related miss, to volunteer fundraising combined with city funds and, more recently, to Port and city shared funding for the roughly $60K cost of a fireworks display in IB.
The city wants to put on Independence Day fireworks every year. Last year it was COVID. So, what happened this year?
First, we are not part of the Port’s Big Bay Boom due to logistical and other reasons. To produce a fireworks program ourselves requires more lead time, planning and local funding we did not have following the fairly recent ending of COVID public gathering restrictions.
Second, we are experiencing a shortage of lifeguards, including seasonal guards. The Independence Day weekend will already be a big challenge for our lifeguard service because of the heavy crowds without adding the increased population that would come for fireworks.
Third, the Sheriff’s Department staffing is stretched already, and getting the extra patrols needed for traffic control would be challenging. The city has already authorized extra patrols for the 4th of July weekend, but the road closures and traffic control needed for a mass exodus immediately following the end of the fireworks would require more officers than are available.
Fourth, the company that normally supplies the fireworks for the Big Bay Boom and Imperial Beach contacted us in March saying they would need to place an immediate order to procure fireworks in order to put on a July 4 show. At the time, it was very unclear due to COVID restrictions then in effect whether we could or should sponsor a large public gathering such as a fireworks show and make such an early financial commitment.
Finally, in order to launch fireworks, an environmental (CEQA) permit is needed and that process, including appeals, requires more time than was available.
Any one of these hurdles would have made it difficult to put on a fireworks display this year, even for our fabulous “can do” city staff and public safety personnel. But all of these problems together made it a bridge too far.
I hope this information is helpful to all of my fellow fireworks lovers in Imperial Beach and the South Bay. Let’s all enjoy Independence Day this year safely and pray that next year will see a full return of all of our public events and programs.