ATHENS, TN (WRCB) -- Athens officials announced Friday that the planned July 4 fireworks display and related activities have been postponed due to the fire that occurred at the Regional Park and the continued high risk of fire that remains.
"This is not something that we want to do but something that we have to do," said Parks Director Austin Fesmire. "On Thursday a mower preparing the fireworks area simply hit a rock that caused a spark that ignited the fire. The operator of the mower had a fire extinguisher and could not contain the blaze. Fortunately, the Fire Department was on site already working with us on another project and that engine was able to respond immediately while the other units were called."
"It is because of that coincidence that the fire was stopped right as it entered the woods. Hot spots were still being monitored six hours after the fire started. After consultation with the fire officials we determined that is was just not safe to shoot the fireworks under these conditions. What is not burnt is literally a tinderbox surrounded by woods," said Fesmire.
"This fire happened during the daytime while a relatively small number of people were in the park. On July 4 we are dealing with over 10,000 people in the area and we have to put their safety first. Had we been fighting this fire in the dark while trying to evacuate the area it would have been an entirely different outcome. I personally want to thank all of the emergency responders who saved the park and surrounding area," Fesmire added.
The city is working with the appropriate permitting agencies to schedule another date for the fireworks and the duck race. Both events require a state permit.