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Gwinnett will glow despite dry conditions

LAWRENCEVILLE - Despite Georgia's drought, Gwinnett's fire marshal has signed off on three fireworks shows for the upcoming Independence Day holiday.

But with the possibility of brush fires, officials are hoping the public displays will keep people from trying fireworks on their own.

"We would like them to leave fireworks to the professionals," Gwinnett County Fire Lt. Thomas Rutledge said. "We do see an increase during that (holiday) time period of grass or brush fires due to sparklers."

The shows will go on, Rutledge said the fire marshal determined late last week after checking conditions at three major events.

Permits have been approved for the annual Gwinnett Glows in Lawrenceville, and planned July 3 events by the cities of Sugar Hill, Norcross and Duluth, as well as a Snellville United Methodist Church display scheduled for July 1. Rutledge said he expects more permits to be issued by the holiday, including the Fabulous Fourth event at the Mall of Georgia.

Christine Parker, spokeswoman for Stone Mountain Park, said the park police chief checks conditions daily because of fireworks launched during nightly laser shows. So far, she said, the plan will be to hold the annual celebrations on both the 3rd and 4th of July. The holiday brings between 30,000 and 50,000 people to the park each year, and Parker said the gates often have to be closed before the fireworks begin.

Officials at Lake Lanier Islands don't have to worry about the dry weather for their show, said spokeswoman Nikki Taylor.

"The drought isn't affecting us because we actually shoot them out into the water," Taylor said.

Taylor, though, pointed out that another meteorological event usually interferes with the show, which can be seen from the beach and water park or from boats; for the last several years, the holiday has seen rain. But the show will go off between showers, if rain does become a factor, she added.

While Georgia's climatologist David Stooksbury said he leaves the fireworks call to fire marshals, he described the drought situation as extreme.

As of Friday, June's rainfall totals in Duluth had only reached 1.11 inches, half of the 2.65 inches of a normal month.

But with 4.21 inches of moisture lost from the soil this month to evaporation and plant use, the water balance is low, he said.

He predicts the situation to get worse throughout the summer because of the high amount of water lost to evaporation and plant use each season, and he said temperatures could top 100 degrees within the next several weeks because of it.

"Even with these scattered afternoon and evening storms, it is still dry," Stooksbury said. "After the dry May, I think people were fooled to think we are having normal rainfall, but we're not."

For those who choose to use fireworks on the Fourth, Rutledge offered the following safety tips:

•Extreme caution should be taken during activities that involve open flames, sparks or hot surfaces.

•Never allow children to use fireworks.

•Keep a garden hose and long-handled tool such as a rake nearby to extinguish a fire or control combustible.

•Combustible materials should be kept at least 10 feet from open flames and spark-producing devices.

Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier's Beach and Water Park will open at 10 a.m. That night, a fireworks display will be simulcast with music on 97.1 FM the River.

Mall of Georgia

The mall's annual Fabulous Fourth festivities kick off at 2:30 p.m. with free concerts, and culminates with the fireworks display at dusk and a post-fireworks movie, shown on the main screen in the parking lot.

Call 678.482.8788 or visit www.mallofgeorgia.com.

Gwinnett Glows

Gwinnett County government's annual Gwinnett Glows festival begins at the Historic Courthouse Square in Lawrenceville at 5 p.m. Music and attractions such as train and pony rides will be held until the fireworks begin at dusk.

For more information, go to www.gwinnettcounty.com.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain Park will host fireworks displays both July 3 and July 4. The show often brings up to 50,000 to the park, which sometimes closes its gates early. On Independence Day, a second laser show will be shown after the fireworks.