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Pendleton fireworks show cut due to brush fire set off by sparks

PENDLETON – The fireworks show at Town Park on Monday was cut short when sparks set off a brush fire at Feigle Road and Campbell Boulevard. The bad ending was just one more incident in a series of problems for the town’s 2016 fireworks display.

Supervisor Joel M. Maerten said that the fire department wet down the site prior to the show but that a spark caused a grass fire.

He blamed “very dry weather” on the mishap. No injuries were reported.

The fireworks lasted about eight to 10 minutes, Maerten said. When organizers ended the show, about one-third of the fireworks had not been used.

Maerten said that it was too soon to say whether the town would receive any compensation toward next year’s show.

“It’s definitely our goal to make sure we have a good display for next year,” Maerten said. “It’s a Pendleton tradition.”

But the long-standing tradition faced a series of problems even before the brush fire shut it down.

Town leaders were told by the fireworks company, Pyrotecnico, based in New Castle, Pa., that with new regulations and for safety’s sake, they needed to move the traditional firing site from the southwest corner of the park.

With limited options in the small park behind Town Hall, the Town Board agreed to move the fireworks across the street to a piece of town-owned property on Campbell Boulevard, east of the park, said Maerten.

“It was unfortunate the way things came together this year,” Maerten said of this year’s move. “We just had a short time to address the issue. Now, we have a whole year ahead of us to plan for next year.”

Maerten said that the change in location was put in the town’s newsletter and online and that most people appeared to have received the message and could be seen in their chairs facing east toward the new site, he said.

The supervisor said attendees also appeared to eventually get the message that the abbreviated show was over, although Maerten acknowledged that it “wasn’t really relayed too well.”

The fireworks “ended abruptly, and in a couple minutes, people got the idea that the show was over,” Maerten said, adding that congestion getting out of the park was also a problem since the firefighters were being pulled “in a million directions” to handle the fire.

Maerten said that the town hasn’t received any phone calls of complaint and that it posted a statement up on the website explaining what happened.