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Trump's Fireworks Display Is a Bad Idea, Expert Says

Conditions are especially dry this year, but Interior Department sees no problem
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2020 4:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – A fireworks display at Mount Rushmore often is dangerous, one fire expert who knows the place says. But the ponderosa pine forest around the monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota is especially dry this year, the Argus Leader reports, making it "extremely flammable," said Bill Gabbert, former fire management officer for the site. The idea of "burning debris, the burning embers and unexploded shells" falling into the forest worries Gabbert. In fact, he said, shooting fireworks over the forest "should not be done," he said. "Period." At the moment, the area carries the drought rating "abnormally dry." Past fireworks shows set off 21 fires in the area, though they didn't get out of control. President Trump plans to travel to the area July 3 to see the fireworks, after dismissing the risk of fire earlier. "What can burn?" the president said in January. "It's stone."

But the site is more than the stone faces of past presidents surrounded by desert, Popular Mechanics points out. The magazine's analysis of the site shows it's not possible to make sure that the particles from rockets that sometimes go as high as 1,200 feet before bursting will stay inside the 500-foot clearance area that's recommended. For any fireworks site, Dynamite Fireworks says, the ground should be cleared of "any leaves or other fire hazards" in the area and the grass within the 500-foot radius should be watered down. Trump has said he got this year's fireworks display approved. "For 20 years or something it hasn’t been allowed for environmental reasons," Trump said on a podcast, per the Hill. Actually, the displays began in 1998 and were halted after 2009 because of the risk of fire. After an environmental assessment this year, the Interior Department decreed fireworks would have "no significant impact" on the area. (Read more Mount Rushmore stories.)

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