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The Four Most Important Words About Fireworks: ‘Light Fuse, Get Away’

Posted on | July 5, 2019 | Comments Off on The Four Most Important Words About Fireworks: ‘Light Fuse, Get Away’


If you love shooting fireworks as much as I do, you have to be serious about safety. Later this month, my sons and I will be shooting a genuinely massive show — a belated Fourth of July celebration, delayed for family reasons — and we are experienced enough to do things right. Unfortunately, some people are not so experienced:

A fireworks store in Indiana was forced to recall 25,000 individual fireworks after a boy lost his hand in an accident, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced in a statement.
According to Oxford, Ohio, police, Caleb Bogan and Brendon Jones found the end of a Talon rocket on the evening of March 19, lit it and were injured by the explosion. Caleb, 12, was flown to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital after sustaining serious injuries, while Brendon suffered only minor injuries.
The recall entails that all products and fireworks be immediately returned for a refund to Grandma’s Fireworks in West College Corner, Ind., which is located just on the Indiana-Ohio state border.

Four words: “Light fuse, get away.”

Every consumer firework sold in the United States carries that warning, and yet every year, people are injured because they ignore that warning.

Three words: “Always brace cakes.” (The ABC Rule.)

Aerial repeaters (known as “cakes”) are the most popular consumer firework product. You light one fuse, and multiple shots fire into the sky — or rather, they’re supposed to fire into the sky. If not properly braced, some cakes can tip over and start firing sideways. Three times I’ve been present when that happened (none of the tip-overs were my fault), and it’s a genuinely frightening experience. Therefore the ABC Rule is always enforced when I’m in charge of a show. But not everybody understands why this rule is so important:

Nine years ago, Kryshelle Houghton safely stood on her driveway watching friends shoot off New Year’s Eve fireworks. She never imagined what impact that celebration wound have on the rest of her life. After a friend lit off a firework ironically named the “Lucky Seven,” it accidentally tipped over and hit Houghton directly in her left eye. Tragically, Houghton, who was 19 at the time lost the vision in her eye that night.
In Houghton’s case, she wasn’t participating in any sort of risky firework behavior at the time of her accident. “I wasn’t doing anything unsafe – I was standing there in the driveway watching a show in the road,” Houghton said. “People don’t realize how unsafe (fireworks) can be.

One look at the “Lucky 7” tells you why it can so easly tip over:


There are several ways to brace cakes. You can drive a stake into the ground and use duct tape to wrap the cake to the stake. Or if you’re shooting on the street, a driveway or a parking lot, you can use bricks to brace your cakes. What we do in our shows is glue the cakes to a board and use fuse to connect them to fire in sequence. Here’s a 3-minute video (not mine) that gives you the basic idea of how it’s done:


The ABC Rule and the four basic words (“Light fuse, get away”) of fireworks safety will eliminate 99% of the risk involved. Once you’ve done that, the biggest remaining risk is a blowout, which is when an aerial shell fails to launch and explodes inside the tube on the ground. If one of the shots in a cake does this, often it will blow the whole cake apart, sending some of the shots going sideways. Every pyrotechnicians’s worst nightmare is to have a blowout on a mortar rack that splits the rack, leaving chain-fused mortars firing sideways. Before shows, I always tell people, “We have a lot of things that fire at different angles, but the one angle we don’t want is sideways. If you see me running? Run for it!”

A lot of fireworks fans have been worried that President Trump’s trade war with China will cause an increase in prices, because nearly all consumer fireworks sold in America are made in China. This is one product we should be grateful to have the Chinese manufacture, not only because they have thousands of years of expertise — they did invent gunpowder, after all — but also because it’s very dangerous work. “12 killed as explosion rips through fireworks factory in China” (September 2014) and “7 killed in East China’s firework plant blast” (September 2017) are typical headlines. Can you imagine the insurance costs if we were making fireworks in America? So thank you, Communist China and your nimble-fingered peasant workers! But every once in a while, we get a glimpse of the dangers of mass quantities of fireworks:

FORT MILL, S.C. – Firefighters had to dodge exploding rockets to douse a spectacular fire that destroyed containers of fireworks stored for sale on the Fourth of July.
Now, investigators believe that fire may have been intentionally set. According to the York County deputy fire marshal, they are investigating [the] fire as a possible arson.
No other details about the investigation have been released.
Crews spent nearly an hour extinguishing the fire that broke out before dawn at the fireworks storage center in Fort Mill.
Emergency crews were called around 5:45 a.m. to the fireworks storage containers near Davey Jones Fireworks along Carowinds Boulevard, just off Interstate 77. . . .
York County deputies said the fire was not actually at the fireworks store but started in containers just outside the store.


The fact that this happened in storage containers that should have been locked is probably why authorities suspect arson. If indeed this proves to be the case, I hope the culprit is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Wasting perfectly good fireworks like that? It’s so wrong.



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