Officials: Albert Lea’s Fourth of July fireworks display moving to new location to meet state safety guidelines

Published 6:28 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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(Update: This story has been updated to correct information previously stated in the article regarding the Freeborn County Humane Society. The organization has not signed off on the new fireworks location.)

To comply with state code, organizers of Albert Lea’s Fourth of July fireworks said Wednesday they plan to move the annual display from the city beach to a new location this year on city property west of the Blazing Star Landing between Fountain and Albert Lea lakes.

With the new location, spectators will be able to use both lakes to view the event by boat or sit on sidewalks or in surrounding parks to watch.

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Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Laskowske said as he researched state requirements, met with the fireworks vendor and prepared to sign off on the permit for the year, he recognized they were not meeting the required blast safety distance of 300 feet on all sides of where the fireworks are detonated.

“If something happens to these fireworks where they just all detonate and they explode as an explosion, we have to be 300 feet in all directions to have protection,” Laskowske said. “(At) city beach we don’t have that … fire code cares about keeping people safe so they don’t get injured or killed in the process.”

He said for his peace of mind and to be able to sign off on the permit, the event needed to be moved.

“I’m signing off on this permit that says we’re doing everything that meets Minnesota state fire code and we’re not …” Laskowske said. “We’ve got to move them to be safe with what we’re doing. We might go for the next 100 years and never have an issue here — we might never have a problem — but the reason this code is in place is because there have been problems. People have been injured or killed because they’ve been within the blast ring of a fireworks display that detonated and went off.

“Accidents happen and things can go wrong. I just want to keep our citizens safe, keep people safe.”

He said they looked at 22 different locations where they could achieve the required blast safety distance of 300 feet on all sides and that from the new location, more of Fountain Lake on the east side will be able to be opened up to boaters. People could also venture out to Albert Lea Lake. There will be safety plans in place on both lakes, between the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office on Fountain Lake and the fire department on Albert Lea Lake.

Shari Sprague, executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, said there could be other opportunities as well that could expand for the evening.

On land, seating will be available in all of the usual areas around Fountain Lake, whether that be the north Broadway parking lot, Fountain Lake Park or along Fountain Lake on Bridge Avenue or at Katherine Island. Near Albert Lea Lake, people could sit along Front Street, at Frank Hall Park or event potentially at Eberhart Park.

People will not be able to sit on the Blazing Star Landing.

Laskowske said they plan to do 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.

Both the Union Pacific Railroad and city administration have signed off on the new location.

As they prepare for this year’s display, Sprague encouraged people to consider a donation to the event.

The chamber each year raises at least $20,000 to pay for the display, and Sprague said she would like to get to $25,000 because the costs keep rising.

They hope to make this year’s event one of the best ones yet.

“We think it’s going to be even better once people adjust to it,” Sprague said.

Albert Lea Select Foods has already donated $2,000 and is a title sponsor. Sponsors will receive recognition based on levels of giving, she said.

She said she hoped to have the annual fireworks fundraiser in the coming weeks and will release more information as the date draws closer.

Donations can be dropped off at the chamber office at 132 N. Broadway.