Late Saturday evening, exploding fireworks started a fire in a field below the annual fireworks display at the Fort Vancouver National Site. An orange glow could be seen during the 25-minute televised show.
The wooden spires that surround the Fort Vancouver replica had been hosed down by the Vancouver Fire Department before the show. The whole area had also been mowed and raked to prevent fire. And, the pyrotechnicians deployed by Western Display, the Canby, Ore., contractor that puts on the fort’s show, insulates each individual firework shell with tin foil before packing them into the launch chamber.
A fire truck stationed beside the launch pad just north of Pearson’s runway sprayed down the blaze, briefly pausing the show. Around 10:45 p.m., the fire was reportedly extinguished, according to a witness.
Larger shells were used this year, said Cara Cantonwine, program director at the Fort Vancouver National Trust, to make even bigger booms than years’ past.
Columbian reporter Jessica Prokop, who was watching the show with her mom, said the field caught on fire about 10 minutes into the show.
“It grew pretty quickly,” she said. “They just kept on going with the show, which I thought was odd.”
When the show paused some people started to leave, but there was no major panic, Prokop said. “I think most people were confused about why it paused and then the abrupt ending.”
Dry, hot and windy conditions left local firefighters scrambling throughout the day as they put out fire after fire. But none were likely viewed by quite as many people as the fire at Fort Vancouver; the celebration at the national historic site draws thousands of people each year.