500,000 spectators expected in Vancouver's West End for fireworks festival
Police, firefighters and paramedics set to keep 26th annual event safe
The team from the Netherlands will be the first to thrill onlookers at the Honda Celebration of Light, which will see up to 500,000 people squeeze into Vancouver's West End each night for three separate fireworks shows.
It's the 26th year of the popular event with the first display going tonight at 10 p.m. PT.
Stay safe and watch out for eachother!! Also take care of your surroundings <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UseThePortaPotties?src=hash">#UseThePortaPotties</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StayOutOfTheFlowers?src=hash">#StayOutOfTheFlowers</a> <a href="https://t.co/cPg8JE4Tla">https://t.co/cPg8JE4Tla</a>—@CelebOfLight
Team Australia will then take its turn on July 27, while an American team closes out this year's edition of the festival on July 30.
"This festival continues to grow and it's really become interwoven into the fabric of Vancouver," said Paul Tilbury co-chair of the Honda Celebration of Light.
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Several hundred officers from the Vancouver Police Department will be on patrol, looking for people trying to bring outside alcohol into the show.
"This visible police presence is intended to deter alcohol-fuelled fights and disturbances," said Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke.
"The large police presence is also intended to recognize, respond and deal with incidents."
Drinking in public could result in a $200 fine while Vancouver Park Board Rangers will also attend to look out for people smoking.
Both Lemcke and Transit Police Chief Doug LePard told media at a briefing on Friday that both their forces are "very cognizant" of acts of terrorism that have occurred in the U.S. and abroad recently.
"There are no specific threats but at any major event like this, especially when on a transportation system with a lot of people we know that creates some vulnerabilities. We have many extra police officers. We have bomb-sniffing dogs," said LePard. "I want to stress our system is very safe."
Both officers asked that anyone attending the events report anything suspicious to police either in person or over social media but also said that reports of drunkenness and fighting have diminished since Vancouver's Stanley Cup riots when policies were changed to reduce booze being brought downtown on transit.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TBT?src=hash">#TBT</a> - we're ready for 2016 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CelebrationOfLight?src=hash">#CelebrationOfLight</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Fireworks?src=hash">#Fireworks</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/VancouverPD">@VancouverPD</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KeepingPeopleSafe?src=hash">#KeepingPeopleSafe</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CelebOfLight">@CelebOfLight</a> <a href="https://t.co/iRhziPX2b8">pic.twitter.com/iRhziPX2b8</a>—@ChiefPalmer
LePard also had a special warning for people engrossed by the game Pokémon Go: "I've got a message for young people out there, please no Pokémon Go," he said. "Your safety is far more important than capturing Pokémon."
With police stressing safety, the B.C. Ambulance Service is asking people to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated to avoid sun stroke.
Police are urging those heading to the fireworks to use transit and to allow extra time to reach the viewing areas. TransLink says it will have additional buses and trains to accommodate the event.
"Don't wait in line at Compass vending machines after the fireworks," read a VPD news release.
"You can buy your two Compass Tickets (save one for later that night) and top up your Compass Card beforehand to breeze through the crowds after the events!"
Road closures for the West End, including: Davie Street, Denman Street and Beach Avenue. are in effect from 7:30 p.m. PT.
Access roads into Kitsilano Point are closed from 6 p.m. PT.
Roads will reopen once crowds have dispersed at approximately 11:30 p.m. PT.
Vancouver city officials are also asking people to pack up their garbage before they leave tonight, saying previous fireworks shows have left too much waste on the ground.
"We ask that all of you attending, please help us in that task by taking out your garbage, not bringing glass bottles to the event and most importantly, do not smoke on the beaches," said Malcolm Bromley, the general manager of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.