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Americans’ longstanding custom of celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks has always been fraught with risk. But this year it comes with a particular potential for catastrophe.

This year’s unusual beginning to summer has brought unseasonably high temperatures and lack of rainfall with earlier-than-usual restrictions on campfires and restrictions on fishing in low-flowing rivers.

Now comes the Fourth amid the tinder dry conditions. The usual fireworks stands have popped up in and around town selling the traditional menu of explosives. But this year, the careless use of those fireworks could easily result in a conflagration.

Cognizant of the heightened risk, elected officials have enacted partial or total emergency bans on fireworks. In Gallatin County, the ban on fires and fireworks is imposed on the Big Sky and West Yellowstone areas. In Madison County, the ban on fireworks is countywide. In all other areas, extreme caution is advised. Some traditional public fireworks celebrations have also been cancelled.

As the threat from the coronavirus pandemic winds down, there is a pent-up desire to celebrate. Observances of many holidays over the past year were canceled or curtailed. Being able to celebrate Independence Day in a near-normal fashion is a temptation to go overboard. But it’s a temptation we all need to resist.

Gallatin County got a stark reminder of the destructive power of wildfires last summer when a blaze in Bridger Canyon destroyed 31 homes. Careless use of fireworks were blamed for a 2012 wildfire in Bear Trap Canyon that burned more than 15,000 acres and caused nearly $4 million in property damage. Those who choose to use fireworks are also reminded they can be held liable for the costs of suppression and damage caused be fires they are responsible for igniting.

In light of the current conditions, it would be best to forego the use of fireworks this year. But those who choose to do so are strongly urged to use extreme caution. Think ahead and have the means available to extinguish a fire quickly.

Let’s all have a happy Fourth. And let’s all do our level best to make sure it is a safe one.

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