It’s a different kind of light show in the sky.
Fire-prone cities across the US are opting to trade fireworks for high-tech drones this Fourth of July to deliver a light show void of fire safety concerns.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall was among many officials in dry areas around the country who decided it was best to steer clear of the booming pyrotechnics this year and instead experiment with technicolor drones as a way to combat the city’s high fire danger and air quality troubles.
“As temperatures rise and fire danger increases, we must be conscientious of both our air quality and the potential for wildfires,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “The summer holiday shows are a mainstay for Salt Lakers, and we’re excited about adapting to new technology which will provide a safe alternative for our residents and visitors.”
Utah has an average of nearly 1,000 wildfires each year, with the state listed as among the most wildfire-prone in the nation, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.
Rather than firing off colorful bombs into the sky, the city will instead deploy drones that put on pre-programed dances in the sky that sync up with music.
Previous shows in other cities have had the drones take the shape of fireworks, city logos, the American flag and even dragons.
Neighboring Boulder, Colorado, has decided to take on a similar approach after its fire marshall discussed safety concerns with the city’s July Fourth planning committee.
“The shift from traditional fireworks to drones was not an easy decision and based on a number of factors, including increased fire danger fueled by climate change,” city officials said in a Facebook statement.
Salt Lake City and Boulder will be among the latest to join Village, Kings Beach and Tahoe City in using drones for the Fourth of July after the three California-Nevada border cities made the switch last year amid the 2022 California wildfires.
There were 7,477 wildfires recorded in the region last year, burning 331,360 acres and destroying nearly 900 structures.
Jeff Stein, who runs California-based Drone Studios and conducts the light show for Tahoe, said the machines are a good alternative for cities worried about wildfires caused by traditional fireworks.
“Drones are reusable, and with fireworks, you have smoke, other fallout like debris, the noise stresses out dogs and people with PTSD,” Stein told CNN.
While some cities in the west appear to be sold on the drone shows, it remains to be seen if those displaying them for the first time will stick to the idea.
Ocean City, Maryland, notably opted to use drones for the Fourth of July in 2021, but the city has since gone back to using fireworks.