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Wed, Feb. 19

Valle fireworks show<br>might be on its last legs

VALLE — The skies over Valle might be lit up with fireworks for the last time when the Fourth of July rolls around this year.

A lack of donations has forced the Valle-Wood Volunteer Fire Department to look at doing away with the show, which has been free for residents and visitors for the past three summers.

"We’ll use this summer as a test," said Roger Miller, president of the Valle-Wood VFD board of directors. "If we can’t get more people involved, we may have to look at this as the last year."

The Fourth of July fireworks celebration, staged at Flintstones Bedrock City, has been the main fund-raiser of the year for the volunteer fire department. Although there has been support from Valle and Tusayan businesses, the individuals are not coming through with needed donations.

"I want somebody to say, ‘hey, thank-you.’ If this neighborhood, including Tusayan, cannot give us 50 lousy cents a head, than we cannot support this anymore," said Willie Collins, the major local contributor for the show.

Collins donated about $2,500 last year for the show, money that basically covered the cost of the fireworks. Through donations and an auction, the department raised nearly $1,400 above that total, fire department board treasurer Robert Carson reported.

"If we cannot earn $2,500, I’d rather donate that (directly) to the fire department," Collins said. "We’re going to have to tell these people that you’re not going to get freebees anymore. When those fireworks go up and go boom, boom, boom … that means your children are safe."

And that’s the whole point Collins and a few on the board are hoping to get across to the public. The Valle-Wood department, which consists of about eight volunteers and three certified firefighters, rely on donations to keep the service going.

Besides serving locals living around the Valle area in terms of fires and medical emergencies, the department’s emergency personnel have also responded to life-threatening situations involving car accidents on State Route 64 and U.S. 180.

Last year, the department responded to 41 calls, including two structure fires, six wildland fires, one bus fire, 12 car accidents, one gas leak, 14 medical emergency calls and a plane crash (a Cessna 207A that went down in September near Red Butte with no fatalities).

"We’ve come a long way in the last year with the addition of two new trucks," said Mike Bovee, fire chief. "We can get to a scene and know we can get back because we have reliable equipment and people."

Carson reported an income of $22,184 for the department last year with expenses running $27,081. With money carried over from 1999, the department ended the year with $300 in the bank.

"We spent about $12,000 more than normal because we decided at the beginning of the year that we had to upgrade our fire trucks," Carson said. "We ended the year with $300, so you can see, we again need people to donate to the fire department."

Tom Scruggs, fire department board member who is in charge of the fireworks, said they’re trying to make the show better each year. There was a setback last year, however, when the program was cancelled on the Fourth of July due to county fire restrictions stemming from dry conditions. The restrictions were lifted only days before the holiday. Valle decided to postpone the fireworks show until Labor Day because they didn’t have time to properly promote the show.

"Last year, it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to," Scruggs said.

The board seemed to be leaning toward the idea of charging $1 a head for those who attend the show. Collins said for even those who don’t want to give the department any money, then they could donate their time.

"This neighborhood had better realize what they’re giving up," Collins said. "You’re saving lives."

Scruggs said when people are charged $1 at the door, then they would be informed that they’re donating to the fire department.

Board member Lorraine Collins said the Fourth of July celebration could be expanded to become a daylong event.

"People are coming in too late for the event," Collins said. "We should make a day of it where they can come in earlier. We need all-day activities, not just a few hours in the evening."

In Tusayan, there is an annual Fourth of July parade, which the Valle firefighters take part in. Afterward, the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce hosts a barbecue and auction with live music. That event has traditionally ended at around 5 p.m.

The fire department board will take up the subject again at its next meeting and invites the public to attend and take part in the discussion. The department’s next meeting will be April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Canyon-Valle Airport.

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