Display Fireworks Require Common Sense and Distance to Keep FFs Safe

Some firefighters seem to lose all common sense when it comes to fireworks. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flop footwear become acceptable apparel, and parking apparatus within the fallout area is suddenly OK. They seem to forget that professional grade...

"We have cans," Allison said. "We can take care of that stuff." Or, they can wait until after the show, he added. "If there's only two minutes left to the end of the show, the brush fire isn't going anywhere."

Flashlight signals work the best, Allison said, and he typically works with one representative of the fire department to give instructions and work out the signaling. Allison also reminded the class attendees that as firefighters and fire officials and "authorities with jurisdiction," they have the right to call the show off if conditions change, or the situation is just plain unsafe.

For instance, burning shards of shells and fireworks material raining into an audience because of a wind change, or a miscalculation about distances, would be grounds to call the show.

"That's yet another reason why we want firefighters out in the audience, to monitor conditions out there," Allison said. "You guys might see something that we don't."

Allison also reminded the class that there's no saving fireworks. "As soon as you get them wet, they're junk. You're not saving anything," Allison said. Therefore, there's no reason at all to park an apparatus close to the racks and mortars, he said.

"If we have a display failure, there's going to be product everywhere," he said. "There's going to be a few guys hurt, but the biggest chance there's going to be problems is in your audience…You drop an eight-inch shell in the audience, there's going to be some problems."

After the Show

After a show, there's always the chance that products will be unspent, or duds, Wyman said. That's why the shooters need to do sweeps of show sites to make sure there are no shells left behind. The sweeps are done by regulations immediately after the show and at "first light" the next day after the show, Wyman said.

Allison said firefighters who feel comfortable helping with looking for the shells, and have been trained to do so, can flag them, but they should not pick them out or handle them.

"If you come walking up to me with a shell in your hands, I'm going to be headed in the opposite direction at a very high rate of speed," Allison said.

The only way to make sure shells are completely dead is to wait at least 15 minutes and then to completely submerse them in water, explained Wyman.

The leftover fireworks then have to be taken back by the display shooter, in a re-placarded vehicle, for proper disposal with the maker.

Wyman related a story about a fireworks mishap in his home town where a three-inch shell was left behind in the middle of the athletic field after the Fourth of July show. The shooter missed it, but the person mowing the lawn on July 5th didn't, he said.

"The mower hit it and there was a hell of a boom and the shower of stars," Wyman said. The force of the detonation, which was contained in the mowing deck, destroyed it and scared the mower operator, but fortunately didn't injure anyone.

"The mowing deck was all bent and pretty much wiped out," Wyman said.

That's the kind of force fireworks can create, destroying heavy metal equipment with just a three-inch shell.

"We worry about it on everything else, and then we get to fireworks and everything goes out the window," Allison said. "We should never lose firefighters in the name of entertainment."