my strongest memory of the fourth was on the bicentennial year, 1976, when i was living in iowa city and went down to a large city park where people were spread out on blankets; the crowd was thick. getting in there by car you could only go so far on the road, but there were people all over this wide plain down by the river and they were all watching this fireworks display. unfortunately one of the fireworks hit one of the people, deep in the middle of the plain. everyone panicked and someone called 911, though i'm not sure how this was done, since it was before the age of cell phones. we could hear the ambulance come from the city, cross the bridge, and enter into the city park on the little road. but then, it had trouble. it literally couldn't reach the injured guy. it was like the people just couldn't figure out that they had to make a little road through the open area, for the ambulance to get through. people were yelling at them, move over, make a road, let the ambulance get through, and everyone had good intentions, but they just couldn't figure it out.
that same night i went home and someone was shooting fireworks in this little housing area where i lived; one hit me in the temple, landed on the ground, and went off there. i was deaf for a few hours after that, but i basically considered myself lucky; it could have gone off anytime.
this year all thoughts are with the firefighters in arizona. this was not a fourth issue; it was just a dry-as-a-tinderbox issue, and i don't know all that much about it, but all i can say is, if you're on the side of constant vigilance, fire safety, public awareness, etc., this must be a very frustrating time. sunday afternoon, around the same time as the arizona disaster, a neighbor went back into the alley, tugged at some loose wires, and two electric wires came down on each other which set some ivy and some leaves ablaze in the alley there, thus causing another neighbor to call 911. in this case, the city fire department basically guarded the area while they waited for the city electric to come and restring the wires. the city electric wasn't used to working on sundays, so this took longer than usual, but it was all over in an hour or two, and we got out of it basically with some singed brush in the alley. actually in general i was impressed by the fire department's efficiency, response to the call, etc. they have my sympathy in the upcoming holiday.
actually one thing i've found is that people tend to denigrate the city and its workers, doesn't matter what city, or where. our cities (usa) in general do better than most. i stood out there on that alley, and i felt like one of those city residents who takes them for granted sometimes. i was looking at my own overgrown weeds. we'd gotten so used to drought here, to absolute lack of rain, that nobody'd mowed anything for months. then, lately, it's rained a little. this is probably the main reason the whole alley didn't catch on fire, it was all a little wet. the power lines were resting on a garage, but it was a little wet, and didn't burn. hopefully our luck will hold out; it's supposed to rain again at least once, before the big holiday.