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Officials Warn of Drought-Related Fire Risk From Fireworks

The Vernon Hills Park District is watering Century Park and other areas in preparation for the village's July 4 fireworks.

With much of northern Illinois in a moderate drought, local fire and emergency management officials are warning residents of the potential risk of fire from fireworks.

The Lake County Fire Chiefs Association and the Lake County Emergency Management Agency are asking residents to avoid using sparklers or illegal personal fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday.

"Any fireworks can produce sparks that can start wildfires when conditions are very dry. A fire that starts is likely to grow and spread rapidly," said Kent McKenzie, Lake County Emergency Management coordinator. "Also, fires of any kind can be dangerous, including campfires, bonfires and even cooking grills when not used safely, so we urge residents to use extreme caution."

According to a statement from the Lake County Fire Chiefs Association and Lake County Emergency Management, the unusually dry weather across northeastern Illinois has resulted in an increased risk of wildfires. He added that several significant brush and grass fires have occurred in Lake County over the past week.

The National Integrated Drought Information System has placed all of Illinois in the moderate drought category.

According to the National Weather Service, the climate station at O'Hare International Airport has measured less than a half inch of rain in June, which is about 2.69 inches less than normal.

No significant rainfall has been forecast for the next several days, other than a slight chance of thunderstorms each day through July 4.

"Agencies across the area will be enforcing Illinois laws regarding fireworks, open burning, and hazardous conditions," according to the statement from the fire chiefs and emergency management. "Residents are encouraged to attend professional fireworks displays because they are closely monitored for safety."

Vernon Hills Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar said village officials had preliminary discussions with the Countryside Fire Protection District regarding the village's July 4 fireworks display.

"They have also talked to the Vernon Hills Park District about watering the Century Park grounds and the island in Little Bear Lake where the fireworks are shot from," said Kalmar. "The park district has begun to water this area. I talked with the fire department again this morning about their concerns. We, like a lot of communities, are watching the weather forecast in hopes that some rain will fall over the next several days."

Village Administrator Mike Allison added that "we will be evaluating with the Countryside Fire Protection District immediately prior to the event."

Libertyville Fire Chief Rich Carani said the fireworks in Libertyville will be "a game-time decision at this point."

In a prepared statement, Carani said "the is banning open burning in all unincorporated areas of the fire protection district where burning is normally allowed."

"The current conditions for our area indicate we are in a high fire danger risk and therefore need to take the proper precautions to eliminate unnecessary fire risks," said Carani.

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