Fog forces tough decision on Edgartown fireworks show

Fog obscured the annual Edgartown fireworks display. — Photo by Michelle Gross

Edgartown fire Chief Peter Shemeth had a tough call to make Thursday evening, as fog rolled in to threaten the annual Fourth of July fireworks display. Mr. Shemeth said the decision to go ahead or postpone the much anticipated show involves several complex factors. In the hours before the scheduled 9 pm show, he tried to gather as much information as possible.

The fireworks are ignited on a barge in Edgartown Harbor.

“I talked with the Coast Guard to find out the weather conditions, and expected weather conditions,” Chief Shemeth said. “I talked with the weather service, talked with the person I had out on the barge itself.”

Mr. Shemeth said the same foggy weather conditions were forecast for Friday evening, which was the rain date for the Fourth of July show. That left the possibility of postponing the fireworks and facing the same situation the next evening.

“The logistics of postponing it for 24 hours are huge,” Chief Shemeth said. “It means you have to have a person on the barge all night, you have to maintain a perimeter around the barge for 24 hours. Taking everything into consideration, can we get all the personnel back for a second night? With the forecast, there wasn’t a vast improvement. A shot went up several minutes before the show time. We (decided) we’ll just go with it and hopefully the wind would blow some of the fog out and clear it. Some people could see them, some couldn’t depending on where they were.”

Mr. Shemeth said another consideration was the complication of leaving the fireworks charges on the barge for 24 hours. If they get wet, or even damp, they are classified as hazardous material.

“It becomes a huge issue,” Chief Shemeth said. “We’ve had them get wet in the past. The barge had to be guarded until the hazardous materials team could get here and take care of it.”

Chief Shemeth said cost was not a large consideration in the decision. The town’s contract with Atlas Pyrovision, the New Hampshire company that furnishes the fireworks and personnel, includes the possibility of a one-day postponement because of weather.

“If the weather service and Coast Guard had said okay, clear skies Friday, then you deal with it,” Chief Shemeth said. “You try to make the best decision you can with the information you have.”