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Fireworks

I’ve been a licensed pyro person for about 12 years now. Out of all the shows I do, my favorite is the one me and my neighbors do at our cottage.

On the day of the fireworks kids around the lake start to get excited, some people have a pre-fireworks party, and I think to myself “this is what it’s all about”. My neighbors and I start setting up about 7pm. We read almost all the fireworks to see what they do and start setting up our firing boards (see below). We place some cakes on the end of our neighbor’s dock and get ready to fire. Boats start to anchor out from the dock and dusk sets in. About five minutes before the start of the show I fire one loud firework which serves as the five minute warning. By now, my neighbors and I are PUMPED! Then the show starts…

 

What’s Canada Day without fireworks? Across this beautiful country on Canada Day, without fail, fireworks are lit, sent skyward, and explode in a colourful bouquet of light and noise. Unfortunately, across this beautiful country on Canada Day, without fail, Paramedics, Doctors, and RNs see an increase in firework injuries. Surprisingly, Canada Day ranks third when it comes to hospital visits due to firework injuries (according to the most recent study I could find). There are more hospital visits due to fireworks injuries on Halloween and Victoria Day. Who knew?

The most common injury is caused by holding fireworks in one’s hands and it explodes. Is this preventable? You bet. The most common place for these injuries to occur is at home. Is alcohol involved? While the study I found doesn’t say, I would hazard a guess and say probably (okay…most likely) in some cases.

So let’s talk safety. Below are some tips. While not all encompassing, they are important.

  1. Don’t mix alcohol and fireworks.
  2. Don’t fire during a fire ban. You could end up broke.
  3. While it goes against some people’s grain, read the manufacture’s instructions. Even if you have to do it in secret. You’ll still be cool.
  4. Wear safety glasses
  5. Remember, if it goes 100 feet up, it can go 100 feet sideways.
  6. Have a fire extinguishment device handy (hose, fire extinguisher etc.).
  7. Take the wind into consideration when launching fireworks. Its very nerve wrecking to see sparks bouncing off your 100 year old cottage roof. If it’s too windy, don’t fire. Wind can blow sparks a long distance. A fire could start ½ a kilometer (or further) away.
  8. Keep the crowd back. Really. Far enough back that they have time to duck to avoid that beautiful barrage of red light comin’ right at them. Most fireworks will state how far back spectators should be.
  9. Know what’s around your firing site. A good example is a docked boat. Fireworks throw a lot of sparks. Boat tarps and gas tanks are spark magnets.
  10. If firing from a dock, have an escape route should things go awry. Know where not to dive if you feel the need to escape the firework that has it out for you. You don’t want to go head first into very shallow water.
  11. Properly anchor every firework. TAKE YOUR TIME. FIREWORKS ARE DANGEROUS! After all, they explode.
  12. Never approach a firework that doesn’t ‘go off’. Wait at least 30 minutes then dump it into a bucket of water.
  13. Only one person should be in charge of the firing. Too many people in charge = confusion = increased chance for injury.
  14. If using a lighter light the firework at arms length. Do not ever lean over a firework. Some people use flares. If you elect to use a flare, be careful. They’re hot, and they drip. Once you light the firework, get back!
  15. Children love to help. But please keep them back.
  16. If placing fireworks close together while firing, be aware that the sparks from one firework can set off another.
  17. Know what side is up. People have been injured because they put the firework on the ground upside down. The firework should say “this side up” or something similar.

How to anchor fireworks

While hard to see due to the dark background, the fireworks below have a plastic base. The best way to safely fire these is to attach them to a 1”by 6” board. You can do this by screwing them to the board with a 1 ½ inch wood screw (or longer if the firework has a thick base). If your board is 12’ long, you can attach several of these fireworks if you place them about 4 inches apart. Just remember to place all the fuses in the same direction: usually facing the person doing the firing. To better secure the board, you can place a cement cinder block at one (or both) ends. You can also slightly angle the board if need be.

The great thing about this setup is you can have several of these boards set up before the show and then pull them out into the firing site as needed. Just place the standby boards somewhere safe: away from sparks and cigarettes.

Below is a “cake”. These are my favorite because they shoot out lots of stuff. Some of them contain 100 shells. Definitely a crowd pleaser. When anchoring a cake I like to put a sand bag on each side. Some cakes will really move around if not anchored. You can also use a cinder block or rocks; just make sure they are not higher than the cake. If they are, the firework can hit the cinder block and bounce back in an uncontrolled manner. You can also bury them about halfway in sand. Just keep an eye out for fuse placement: you don’t want to bury it in sand.

If you take a look at the cake on the left you’ll notice the sides are angled. This means the cake’s fireworks fan out when they are discharged. An important thing to remember here is the angle. Watch where you set these up. You don’t want the angled fireworks to hit trees, or worse yet, your cottage. These are great off the end of a dock. The firework on the right is square. This means that most of these fire straight up. There are now some cakes on the market that although they are square, they fan out when fired. Read the instructions. If it says “place this side towards the crowd” then the odds are it fans out.

 

Below is a firework that does not have a plastic base. This type needs to be buried at least halfway in sand (more if the instructions require it). The fuse is usually halfway up from the base of the firework. As mentioned above, know what side is up.

Below is a firework that is called a ‘fountain’. These shoot out sparks and on some fountains the sparks don’t go very high. The important thing to consider with these fireworks is the spark. If you have other fireworks setup around a fountain they could be discharged due to a wayward spark from the fountain. The ground around a fountain could also get burns marks, so placement is important. Placing these in sand helps secure the firework from moving.

Below is what is commonly referred to as a ‘wheel’. These throw a lot of sparks so placement should be considered carefully. Read the instructions. Make sure they are anchored correctly as per the instructions.

Below is a package of sparklers. This is the only firework (for the lack of a better term) that I know of that can be held in your hand. I’m sure we all played with these at one time or another. They spark. A lot. Be careful of the sparks and watch the children.

Firing tips

  1. If you can get people from around the lake to pitch in and donate fireworks you could end up with one awesome show. Fireworks are expensive so the more help you get the better.
  2. Read the instructions on the side of the firework. It’ll tell you what the firework does. Keep a good mix. Don’t keep firing the same type. That gets boring.
  3. Keep the sky lit! My experience has taught me that people would rather see a 10-15 minute show where there’s always something in the sky than a show that’s 30 minutes long with lots of dark sky.
  4. If firing from a dock: place old plywood on your dock to protect it from burn marks.
  5. Using the 1” by 6” board I mentioned above works great on docks. Make sure you have a good mix of fireworks on your boards. If you fire one off and it seems really drab, fire another right away. Keep it exciting.
  6. If you’re firing from land, watch out for dry grass.
  7. Let your neighbors know you’re going to be firing off fireworks. Especially if they have dogs. Some dogs do not like the noise and will bolt.
  8. If you let the word out on your lake that you are going to be firing off fireworks on a certain date, have a rain/wind date backup. I’ve cancelled more shows due to wind than rain.
  9. When it comes to cakes, you basically get what you pay for. The more expensive the cake, the more thrilling it’ll most likely be.
  10. All fuses on fireworks are covered with a protective cover. Once the firework is secured for firing, remove all the protective covers so you’re not doing this in the dark.
  11. Have a small flashlight handy when firing. This’ll help you find the fuse.
  12. When we do high level shows, we always design a finale. A finale should be obvious. The sky should be very busy with fireworks. I like to do the same with consumer fireworks. If you have managed to get enough fireworks for a finale, for the last 15-30 seconds of your show go nuts!
  13. When purchasing your fireworks, talk to the seller. You’d be surprised how much they (should) know. If you’re lucky enough to have a business around you that sells nothing but fireworks, go there to buy. They will most likely help you design a show that suits your budget and give you great tips.