Disney World fireworks show causing brush fires despite burn ban, union says


Credit: Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Credit: Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

During a burn ban, there are serious consequences for setting off fireworks that lead to brush fires.

But Disney World is allowed to continue its three firework shows.

The theme park canceled fireworks in 1998, when brush fires scorched Central Florida.

Disney World recently suspended campfires at its resorts because of the burn ban, but the firework shows continue, and the Firefighters Union said small embers from the Star Wars show are starting brush fires.

Interactive map: Burn bans in effect in Central Florida

And that’s a problem when nearly all of Central Florida is under a burn ban.

“It’s over and over again. You can see the different spots we’ve had fires,” said Tim Stromsnes, president of the Reedy Creek Firefighter’s Association.

He said there are new flare-ups nearly every night.

Interactive map: How bad is Central Florida's drought?

“My concern is that it’s taxing our guys. Some of our guys are out there 20 out of 24 hours,” Stromsnes said.

He said Disney needs to clear about 1,000 feet of land to make it easier for firefighters to spot flare-ups.

State records show the Florida Forest Service has to help three times since the Star Wars show debuted last June.

In the past 17 years, the state has only been called out twice for fires started by Magic Kingdom’s fireworks, both in March 2007.

Those fires prompted Disney to install sprinklers around the Magic Kingdom.

Stromsnes said the same action should have been taken for Hollywood Studios.

“How can something built 30 years later not have the foresight to (put) sprinklers in the woods?” he said.

A Disney spokesperson sent a statement that said, in part, “Periodically, we modify fireworks shows based on weather conditions. We are not currently using certain types and sizes of fireworks at Hollywood Studios, and as recently as last week, we modified the use of slow-burning fireworks.”

But at this point, it’s not been enough to shut the shows down entirely.

“All I know is, the show goes on every night,” said Stromsnes.

Firework shows with permits are exempt under Orange County's burn ban, but the permit comes from Disney's own fire department--Reedy Creek.