For most Perry County residents, the Fourth of July weekend was a relatively quiet one. The Independence Day holiday fell on a Thursday this year, splitting the fireworks-filled celebration with an additional workday before the weekend.
That led to a relatively uneventful holiday from a public safety perspective.
“It was really good,” said Bill Jones, assistant chief of the Perryville Fire Department. “From a public safety standpoint actually it was great. We had a little rain ahead of time and that wet down the top fuel load and increased the moisture level and in the grass and the brush. So that helped out immensely. It cleared off for the events at the park and things went well down there.”
The holiday fun actually started on July 3, when the Perryville Rotary Club hosted its annual community fireworks show at City Park.
Event committee chairman Beth Guth said that, despite rain earlier in the day that threatened the event and left the park a bit damp, they were happy with the way the show turned out.
“We were pleased with the crowd,” Guth said. “We were pleased with the show and thankful that the weather cooperated.”
The Rotary Club has been involved with the annual fireworks show since 1998.
“We wish it could be bigger and better, but we just don’t have the manpower to do that,” Guth said.
There was one bit of excitement after the fireworks show. An equipment malfunction resulted in one of the city’s tornado sirens being activated. There was no storm and no warning issued, and the reason behind the activation is still something of a mystery.
“We heard the tones go out over our radio,” said Jones, who also serves as the city’s emergency management director as well as its assistant police chief, “but they were not generated from our office here. It has happened one other time in the past, four or five years ago, and it was caused by some anomaly.
“We couldn’t figure out what it was back then. Unfortunately the same anomaly exists now. We cannot figure out why or how that tone was generated.”
Jones explained that the sirens are activated by a tone transmitted by radio, which triggers the system when a tornado watch is issued. He speculated that the July 3 activation tone, which was of low strength, could have been “radio skip” from a high-powered transmission in another location well outside the area, or a low-powered signal from somewhere in the immediate vicinity.
“It wasn’t strong enough to reach all of our sirens,” Jones said. “We’re still looking into it, but we know it’s not a problem with the sirens. It’s that same anomaly from five years ago.”
Some excitement was also generated over impromptu fireworks displays over the weekend. Perryville’s Board of Aldermen voted in 2017 to change the city’s fireworks ordinance to allow fireworks designated as “Class C” to be used within city limits between June 20-July 6 of each year, along with certain time hours they are allowed.
Several city residents took to social media to complain about noise, one even including contact information for each of the city’s aldermen in a post on Facebook.
Despite the complaints, Jones said city residents followed the law.
“I mean, we did get some calls,” Jones said. “Most of the calls were from people that were not aware that fireworks could be used in the city.”
Jones stressed that the city still has specific rules to follow regarding the kinds of fireworks allowed, specifically anything with a stick or anything that could be considered “guided flight.”
“Those remain illegal in the city due to the fact that, throughout the United States, there’s been more structure fires started with those type of fireworks than any other type,” Jones said.
Out in the county, where rules are less strict, the weekend was also calm.
“Everything was reasonably quiet as far as fireworks,” said Perry County Sheriff Gary Schaaf. “I understand some people out at Lake Perry joined forces to put on a fireworks display. The guys that were working out there said it was a really good show.”
In addition to following the rules, county residents also stayed safe. Perry County Ambulance Service director Mary Chappius said there were no calls to respond to fireworks-related injuries over the weekend.
Overall, Jones called it a good weekend.
“We did not have any problems,” he said.