Drones replace Fourth of July fireworks amid wildfire fears in the West

PASADENA, Calif. -- With massive wildfires burning out of control throughout the West, there is growing concern about the trouble that fireworks could cause on the Fourth of July.

As a precaution, towns like Carefree, Arizona, have cancelled their fireworks shows. But Carefree's mayor found a way to make sure the show goes on -- by lighting the sky with drones.

"Well, they described it and they sent us a video and we said, 'Let's do it,'" Mayor Les Peterson said.

Call it fireworks without the fire: dazzling displays made up of hundreds of tiny drones carrying LED lights.

0703-en-fireandfireworks-evans4.jpg

Some communities are replacing fireworks with drones

CBS News

Natalie Cheung helped put on Intel's Super Bowl halftime drone show in 2017 with Lady Gaga. The whole display was programmed on a computer.

"We know exactly what's going to happen to our drones at every frame and second," Cheung said.

That technology also found its way to this year's Olympics and music festivals like Coachella. But during wildfire season in the West, they're increasingly being used as an alternative to Fourth of July fireworks, which last year sparked 869 wildfires in California alone, the highest number in five years.

One of the drone shows this year is taking place at Travis Air Force Base in northern California, not far from acres of burning brush.