Heat a concern as holiday celebrations begin

July 3, 2012 8:38:00 PM PDT
The hot weather is getting the attention of local communities that are staging fireworks displays Tuesday night, with many taking precautions to protect spectators and organizers from the heat.

The celebrations have already begun in Naperville, where a spectacular fireworks show lit up the sky Tuesday night after what has been, weather-wise, a grueling few days.

"We considered not coming because of the heat but decided to brave it," said Naperville resident Ashley Eichmann. "Free fireworks, so we're here."

"We toyed with the idea for an hour or two but figured we'd come out," said Lakesha Battles of Bellwood. "You can't stay inside all day, every day."

Organizers blame a double dose of storms Friday and Monday, plus scorching temperatures for a 20 percent decrease in attendance at Naperville's Rib Fest.

"All of our surrounding neighbors really got hit hard and I believe a lot of those people have stayed home over the last 3-4 days to try to take care of themselves and their families," said Julie Lichter of Naperville Exchange Club Rib Fest.

More than half a dozen suburbs including Wheaton cancelled Fourth of July festivities so communities could focus on clean-up.

In Chicago, emergency managers say they're surprised at how few people are calling 911 to report heat-related emergencies.

"We would get 30-40 people an hour during hot periods of the day last year and we're still down in the single digits all the way across the board," said Gary Schenkel, Chicago Office of Emergency Management.

Back in Naperville, setting up the pyrotechnics for tonight's lightshow has been an all-day, hot and sweaty task. The launch site and fall out zone is a large, well-watered community garden which helps ease concerns the show could spark a fire.

"We're in constant contact with the fire department," said Melrose Pyrotechnics' Bob Smalley. "They've been here several times today, policed the area, and said it looks good. They can shut us down anytime if there's a problem."

Despite a hot and sticky night, Naperville's fireworks spectacular drew tens of thousands of people.

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