Editorial: Continue to support Albert Lea’s fireworks

Published 8:50 pm Friday, April 12, 2024

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An article about a recent decision to move Albert Lea’s fireworks display from the city beach to a city-owned property west of the Blazing Star Landing may have come as a surprise to many. It did for us.

But as we heard more about why the decision was being made, we believe it makes sense to follow the state guidelines when it comes to something that could potentially cause harm such as fireworks.

Albert Lea Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Laskowske said as he researched state requirements, met with the fireworks vendor and prepared to sign off for the permit this year, he recognized they were not meeting the required blast safety distance of 300 feet on all sides of where the fireworks are usually detonated. In the event there is an accident as the fireworks are detonated, leading to an explosion, someone could be seriously injured, if not killed.

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In an effort to make sure residents are safe in the event of an explosion or something similar, Laskowske and others made the decision to move the fireworks from their longtime location and began researching almost two dozen other possible locations for a new place.

It couldn’t have been easy to make the decision and change what has become a tradition for Albert Leans and even visitors. But as Laskowske pointed out, the rules are in place because there have been problems in other communities — even though we’ve been lucky not to have had any issues here.

The fire department and Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the fundraising for the event, reviewed many factors when deciding upon a new location — not only safety, but visibility and impact on vendors, boaters and pedestrians, among others. They are even organizing a test shoot, where various volunteers will be set up at different places in the community to record with video to submit back for further viewing recommendations.

While we understand that Albert Lea’s fireworks are an important part of the Fourth of July holiday and a highlight of the summer’s festivities, we recognize that the department can’t knowingly go against state code, especially knowing the potential risk and liability.

So now what?

Some on social media have recommended shooting the fireworks from a barge on Fountain Lake. Other neighboring communities are also chiming in to invite residents to drive a bit to check out their fireworks.

We ask residents to continue to support Albert Lea’s fireworks display. Whether that’s forming new traditions in town surrounding the new location, writing a check to support the fireworks financially or encouraging others to do the same, the fireworks cannot continue without the community’s support.

The fireworks are already based solely on donations through the chamber, which has become more difficult in recent years. If people want to organize additional fundraising to make them bigger or to try other options, they should bring those ideas to the leaders of the fire department and chamber. As always, if you don’t like how things are being done or want to see something else, be a part of the solution.