To the editor:
Several months ago a discussion ensued among a group of citizens which included local business owners, city officials, emergency responders and residents alike regarding the possibility of bringing back the annual fireworks display to the city of Williams which was traditionally held on Independence Day.
As the July 4th date drew closer, this discussion became as heated as the weather itself which inevitably led to fire restrictions across the entire national forest system and county. Adding to the increasing tempered dialogue was the recollection of the incident from 10 years ago, when at the beginning of the fireworks show, several small spot fires occurred shortly after the first two shells were fired prompting an immediate shutdown and consequential fire suppression effort.
Many citizens voiced their concerns saying it was too dangerous, and to attempt this now would be irresponsible, reckless and made no sense at all. Many others felt quite passionate about the celebration of this national holiday and remembered how the traditional fireworks event promoted enormous interest from thousands of local people and visitors from abroad bringing prosperity, communal spirit and a sense of pride to the entire community. Officials listened to both sides of the debate and allowed all opinions to weigh in. The one thing they found all had in common was their shared interest to protect their homes, property, businesses and forested lands in their community.
The one thing that was different from the last time this happened was the thought process which emanated from the previous lessons learned. Unlike the incident in 2007, planning for this event began while there was still deep snow on the ground. Collectively, the City of Williams Fire and Police Departments as well as the Mayor and members of the City Council realized early on to do this right would require an extensive amount of coordination. The strategy was to invite and involve as many cooperators who possessed the expertise to evaluate the risks involved and be able to safely mitigate those hazards to move forward. Law enforcement agencies, fire districts, medical providers, public safety, land management, and transportation agencies, and even private land owners were contacted to help manage this event, and eventually the plan was set in motion.
First and foremost, public safety was identified as the priority objective. Figuring out all the complexities of operations and logistical support across the city was no easy task either, but after many discussions and meetings an action plan began to take shape. A multiplicity of agencies from across this region that included federal, state, county, city, volunteer, and private entities mutually joined together and literally built an organization with the most highly trained and experienced emergency responders in the this area to form an Incident management team with a unified command structure.
As the holiday rapidly approached, several last minute meetings transpired as anguished officials meticulously looked over every possibility, collectively re-evaluating the plan right down to the last minute, and as the final weather reports came in, the decision was made to “go”. This was no hasty decision and every imaginable scenario was painstakingly considered beforehand.
Many issues were identified and even some unknowns, but plans backed by contingency plans were made. Traffic and parking were among the most complex issues recognized. A medical emergency protocol was established. Branches and divisions were designated on maps and resources were assigned specific tasks with attainable goals and objectives for the best successful outcomes possible. Operations had clear strategies and commanders designated highly capable individuals to carry them out. Some fire crews from out of state participated who were in our area in support of the fire suppression efforts going on statewide.
Being part of the emergency response community for over 20 years, it is not always common to see the efforts of so many different agencies working well together. However, it seems a celebration of American Independence has a way of bringing the best out of people to interact together and team up to achieve one common goal. What happened here may not be of statewide or national interest, but if you live in this community, you can rest assured, that the best of your best came together and got the job done. The planning, preparation, coordination and most importantly the cooperation of all the participants involved paid off. There was not one single spot fire, nor one accident or injury related to this incident, and Williams Arizona celebrated July 4th 2017, Independence Day in true American fashion. A job well done.
The next time you see an emergency responder, an elected official, or a public servant in your neighborhood, stop and take a moment to tell them how much you appreciate their service, commitment and professionalism. This event was an example of what a community of professionals can do when they pull together for a common cause, to meet the task at hand, and ultimately accomplish the mission.