Birmingham latest to snuff out fireworks

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

After 30 years, the City of Birmingham has canceled its annual Fourth of July Fireworks due to public safety concerns over its continued growth.

Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine said the longtime tradition at Lincoln Hills Golf Course has placed increasing demand on the venue in recent years and its adjoining streets, exceeding the city’s ability to successfully manage the event.

“Ultimately, we want all of our city events to be a fun and safe environment for all that attend, but with the increasing crowds that are packed into the golf course and adjoining streets, our ability to effectively provide this environment has become significantly hampered,” said Valentine, who said the event isn’t ticketed so he could not cite an attendance count.

Birmingham is the latest Metro Detroit community to call off its fireworks show in recent years in response to overwhelming growth, traffic congestion and public safety worries. In March, Plymouth Township decided to scrap its show.

Birmingham and Beverly Hills have co-hosted a combined celebration in previous years, but due to the cancellation, patrons will have to drive farther. The closest public displays would be Detroit’s Ford Fireworks or Dearborn’s Salute to America at Greenfield Village.

In Plymouth Township, an annual fireworks show had been tradition since its start in 2008. But Plymouth Township Fire Chief Daniel Phillips said the community has outgrown McClumpha Park, which is in a residential area and putting homes at risk.

The crowd, Phillips said, started getting out of control over the past five years, and the department had to start devoting resources toward it.

“The traffic, congestion, and cleanup after as well as many thousands of guests coming from all over the Metro Detroit area we cannot accommodate,” Phillips said. “There were other concerns with homeowners competing with the firework show and illegally launching non-consumer fireworks surrounding the event.”

Last year, a small tree caught fire during the show and to meet safety needs, the fire and police departments would have to double their daily staffing, Phillips added.

“The Plymouth Township Police Department must devote all their resources to the event and do not have enough officers to patrol the community during the event,” he said. “If an emergency happened we would be hard-pressed to respond immediately.”

Canton resident Stefania Schroeder said the Plymouth fireworks have been a family tradition for over 10 years and she’s sad to see them go.

“(It’s) unfortunate because (Plymouth fireworks) was a great set to take our kids to locally,” said Schroeder, a mother of two. “It was and always is completely packed. Honestly, we probably won’t go to any other fireworks shows.”

Incidents at Fourth of July events are not uncommon. Last year, a pregnant woman was shot during a firework display in Pontiac and hospitalized.

In 2010, an 18-year-old woman stabbed another woman nine times at the St. Clair Shores fireworks and Grosse Pointe Woods canceled its fireworks show after at least 13 fights were reported among a large crowd of teens in 2014 that outnumbered police officers present. Since then, Grosse Pointe Farms has restricted its fireworks to residents only. This year, they will take place July 1 at Pier Park.

Last year, Trenton, Wyandotte and Ecorse all canceled scheduled firework shows for Fourth of July weekend due to safety issues regarding large crowds and the rising costs.

But in lieu of new sponsorship, Trenton is returning its show. The city will host a firework celebration in honor of Bob Beesley, owner of Flo-Aire Heating and Cooling Inc., who died in February.

Many community sponsors joined the cause and raised $35,000 to bring back the fireworks. The event will take place July 4 at Rotary Park.

While some smaller cities cancel from fear of large crowds, the Ford Fireworks in Detroit continue to grow.

Sgt. Adam Madera of the Detroit Police Department said there will be extra patrols at the Ford Fireworks, but wouldn’t specify how many, or what the attendance is expected to be this year.

“We look for large groups and anyone lighting off their own fireworks. Just anything that can cause a large disturbance,” Madera said. “There will be road closures and backups.”

Over 150 arrests occurred at the 2014 show, but since they increased security and placed a curfew for underage teens unaccompanied by an adult, DPD has not had any significant arrests the past two years, according to Detroit police.

This year’s curfew will be the same as last year for those 17 years old and younger, unless unaccompanied by an adult, according to City Council officials. The curfew is in effect on the night of the show from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and enforced in the area bounded by Interstate 75, the Detroit River, the Lodge Freeway and Chene Street.

The 59th annual Ford Firework display is set for June 26 at 9:55 p.m. along the Detroit River.

Madalyn Knebel, 28, resident and native of Detroit, said she does not attempt to attend the fireworks in Hart Plaza because she hates the traffic, being around too many people and the commotion that can easily take place.

“I don’t go to Hart Plaza or Belle Isle,” she said. “I prefer the rooftop locations.”

(313) 222-1855

Twitter: @SarahRahal