Chronic technical difficulties — not to mention a thick, heavy fog — plagued this year’s Fourth of July fireworks at the City of Santa Barbara’s waterfront, leading to a lengthy delay and prompting the City Fire department to pull the plug on the annual event before the grand finale.

Embers from an errant mortar singed the wire connecting the computerized control system to the timing mechanism igniting the different shells. This brought the show to a stop after just 12 minutes. As boaters in the harbor headed towards shore in response, they encroached into the safety buffer established by the Harbor Patrol.

It took about 20 minutes to fix the problem and re-establish the safety buffer — during which time much of the crowd left. The problems were eventually fixed, but shortly after the fireworks resumed, officials with the Fire Department pulled the plug, expressing concern over the number of low-flying mortars launched by Bay Fireworks, the company contracted by City Hall to put on the event.

This year was the first in many that Sparkle was not on hand to play patriotic themed music through a beachfront PA system, due to a waning of relations between Sparkle organizers and City Hall. Without that PA system, however, waterfront employees and Harbor Patrol officers had no way to communicate with those waiting on the beach or in the water. As a result, most simply left.

Under its contract, City Hall is obligated to pay Bay Fireworks $42,000, but since the Fourth, both sides have been meeting to discuss a possible refund.


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