By Jane Smith
Delray Beach’s fireworks will be set off from a barge offshore from the municipal beach this Fourth of July, City Manager Mark Lauzier said last month. The pyrotechnic show will no longer take place on the beach, as was done in recent years.
Lauzier planned to take the $30,000 barge rental cost from his contingency fund to safeguard Fourth of July attendees and the dunes on the beach from raining fireworks debris.
“It’s about risk to life, limb and public property,” Lauzier said in an email.
When he was working for the city of Pompano Beach, fireworks were set off on the municipal fishing pier. In 1994, the year before he started working there, a technician was killed when a fireworks shell exploded early and “blew apart the fishing pier,” Lauzier said. “It turned a festive celebration into a tragedy.”
Delray Beach used a barge through 2011, when barge rental rates skyrocketed. Most were in the Gulf of Mexico to help clean up the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to news reports.
From 2012 to 2017, Delray Beach leaders used the city beach as a base for the fireworks display to save money.
In mid-April, the City Commission agreed to pay $38,000 to its Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative for the Fourth of July fireworks, deployed by Zambelli Fireworks of Boca Raton. Daily beach walkers appreciate that a barge will be used again in Delray Beach.
“Shooting them off from the beach takes up too much of the city’s beach for days,” said Chris Heffernan, a barrier island resident who runs on the beach daily.
Delray Beach used a barge as a fireworks platform for decades, Heffernan said. “It was much nicer … safer,” he said.
The city manager agrees.
“The beach is not as wide as it needs to be for full pyrotechnic displays,” Lauzier said. “Even moving people away from the display area has risk and would allow only ‘close proximity’ fireworks.”
Mayor Shelly Petrolia concurs.
“The farther away the fireworks are from people, the safer it will be,” she said.
Petrolia said the barge could work well for Fourth of July fireworks because the seas are often calmer in the summer months.
Lauzier hopes the barge will be a suitable platform for the fireworks and the rental cost will become part of the general budget.
“I think our public safety chiefs will agree that it’s better to be safer than sorry,” he said, “and the safety is worth the increased cost.”