Catonsville fireworks display cut short due to wind

Catonsville's spectacular display of fireworks was cut short on Friday to the disappointment of many who turned out to see the event.

"The upper winds were making them go where they weren't supposed to go," said George Deal, chairman of the Catonsville Fourth of July Celebrations committee. "We couldn't continue with the fireworks and we had to close early."

Deal said the show was planned to last 35 to 40 minutes with a finale, but lasted for about 25 minutes.

The early ending caused $8,000 in fireworks to go unused, Deal said.

When the Baltimore County Fire Marshal at the event said the show had to end for safety reasons, the Fireworks Committee, a group of a dozen people responsible for setting off the fireworks each year, complied.

"Gusty winds picked up during the show and the fire marshal thought it best to end early," said Lee Fitzsimmons, 51, a member of the Fireworks Committee.

Long pauses in between the fireworks resulted from the "shooters" stopping to see if the winds would subside, and they could resume the show, Deal said.

"It was weird. Something just didn't seem right over there," said Eric Manser, 21, a Catonsville resident who works at the Rolling Road Golf Club.

Manser said he watched the fireworks from the club, located across Valley Road from Catonsville High School, every year.

Many observers saw embers from the fireworks fell onto the grass at the golf course.

Manser said although there was no "structural damage" at the club, he did spot burn marks in the grass at the club.

Some expressed concerns of fireworks being set off closer to the ground than normal.

"In the past, they have always appeared high in the sky," said Jennifer Parker, who has lived in Catonsville for nine years.

Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. John Wachter said on July 7, that there were no injuries reported from the Friday event.

Many left the show confused about what they had observed. No announcements were made as to what had gone awry, Parker said.

"The speculation in the crowd was that they shut it down early for safety reasons," Parker said.

The Celebrations Committee posted an explanation on its Facebook page Saturday for those left wondering why the fireworks ended early and without a finale.

One commentator Janice Newman, wrote, "I enjoyed the show, was sitting on the stadium/field side. We couldn't hear any announcement and set for the 20 to 30 minutes to see if the show would resume. Wish the lights came on sooner to indicate it wasn't going to restart. I will come back every year that I can...thanks for the explanation — definitely was wondering."

Jennifer Cook wrote, "We would recommend a lesson learned — the need for an emergency communication plan. From using the entertainment stage area on the south-side to the track and field speaker system on the east-side, or even police bullhorns. It would have eliminated confusion."

The Celebrations committee caught a lot of "flack" for ending the show early, Deal said.

"I'd rather have 100,000 people complaining than have one person injured," Deal said. "When you're endangering people, it's not worth it."

Fitzsimmons agreed that safety took precedence over completing the event.

"You'd like to see that the show completes and the community gets a good show out of it...You'd hate to see anything that would endanger people," Fitzsimmons said.

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