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Countdown to Pyrotechnics

Only two more work days until we leave for NC in a van loaded with 16 cases of explosives weighing 632 pounds. Man will I be nervous going down the highway crossing state lines of six states. We've got some tremendous effects planned for this show. I think it will be even better than last year.

We are going to start out with a 20 stick barrage of 1 inch Roman Candles. These are about twice as big as anything you can buy at a roadside stand. So for the whole effect, we will have 160 flaming and exploding balls going into the air. Flaming and exploding balls...something about that just seems so uncomfortable.

Next we will light off one by one, a row of 20 special effects cakes with names like Bulls Rule, Marooned, Rush, Flower Power, Parrots Prattle, Gang sta Blast, Blond Joke (my personal favorite), Freedom Reign and Lion King.

After that we light a 20 foot string of 50,000 firecrackers that are about as powerful as the old M-80s and Cherry Bombs that are now illegal.

Then a second row of 20 special eff ects cakes with a few sets of Screamin' Semen thrown in for kicks.

Fifth is my own special effect that we hope is going to go right. We dreamed this up in our heads and we've never tried it before. Nice thing is about that, the crowd won't know if it's r ight or wrong as long as it makes a bunch of noise and light. What it will look like is 3 - 16 foot 2x4's set upright and parallel spanning a distance of 12 feet. On top is another 16 foot 2x4 which will hang out 2 feet on both ends. Looped between the th ree uprights will be a 10 stick Niagra Falls string which throws a steady stream of bright yellow sparks straight down. Hanging down from the middle uprights and off the two ends of the crosspiece will be three more strings of 50,000 special effects firec rackers. So 150,000 firecrackers accompanied by a river of sparks which should go on for about 5 minutes. Lets hope it lights right. Just in case, I've put in two safety fuses we can light just in case something goes wrong. This will be the most dangerous one to light so hopefully my spotters will keep me from catching fire.

For the grand finale we have 48 special effects cakes for a total of 624 separate shells which will ignite in the space of about 3-5 minutes. Then it will all be over.

I've asked a good friend who has some influence in these matters to help with the weather that night. I'm actually hoping for a litle rain the day before and nice weather that day but rain or shine, I'll still light the show.

ryl and dragoneerl have agreed to come out and help and along with my buddy Brent and his girl Roxy, will act as spotters and if they are really nice to me, I'll let them light a cake or two as well.

Be prepared folks to learn the meanings of the following terms:

Shooter - The person actually lighting the efects whether they be mortars or cakes. Also responsible for telling the crew to hit the dirt if there is a low break or a break out.

Spotter - The people watching the whole show for fallout that may land in trees or the crowd or on the shooter himself. Spotters are responsible for putting the shooter out should he catch fire.

Loader- The person who drops shells into the tubes in a hand fired mortar show.

Lead Pyro - The certified and trained professional who supervises the setup and dictates the order the show will be lit in. In other words, the Big Cheese. And the guy who takes the fall if something goes wrong. For this show, I am the Lead Pyro (read King of all I survey) and Deb is the Asst. Lead Pyro.

Shoot Crew, Shoot Team or just Crew - The group of people who set-up and fire a show.

Screamin' Semen - Inside joke. What we call the whistling glow worm effect.

Quick Match - Thick cotton wick impregnated with gunpowder and covered with paper. Unwrapped it burns at 6 inches per second. Wrapped it burns at 60 feet per second.

Sticky Match - Clear tape impregnated with gunpowder which you wrap around individual fuses in a series effect. Burns at 80-100 feet per second. We will be using sticky match to ignite the Roman Candle effect.

Chicken Wick - Adding a length of quick match to the end of a cannon fuse to give a nervous shooter time to run before something explodes.

Canon Fuse - The typical green waxed fuse found in most large fireworks effects. Desirable because it will burn underwater and therefore good in humid or wet conditions.

Fusee - Actually a road flare set in a compression ring at the end of an aluminum pole. Used to light fireworks effects so the shooter does not burn the hell out of his hand when the fuse ignites.

Cakes - A group of special effects shells put together in a single package. Typical configurations are 12, 13, 18, 24, 36, 50, 100 and 1000 shells per cake. Class C cakes can only have at most, shells with a diameter of 1 3/4 inches. And 500 grams of gunpowder per shell. Class B cakes can have shells all the way up to 3 inches. We are using mostly Class C Shells for this show but they are all very close to the 500 gram per shell limit.

Shells - The individual firework effect component. Shells may be found grouped in cakes. Multi-packed into tubes as in a Roman Candle or dropped singly into metal mortars as in the case of the classic super high fireworks effects we all grew up with on the 4th of July.

Tubes - The mortars which big shells are dropped into. Tubes must be made of 1/4" steel for rapid fire applications but can be made of polymer or fiberglass for single shot applications. Tubes vary in width from Class C applications at 1 3/4 inches all the way up to the very rare 36 inch tubes for which the shell must be loaded with a crane. Tubes do sometimes rupture and explode. Just ask our team's lead pyro who 11 years later still has the scar from getting bits of fiberglass shrapnel surgically removed from his leg.

Buckets - A paper coin roll used as a cap over the end of a fuse to protect it from the elements. The shooter or a loader will generally pull the buckets off just before the shooter is ready to fire the effect.

Stay Green - An expresion like "Break a Leg" It's an admonition from the Lead Pyro to his crew to stay safe during the show.

Fire In The Hole - An expression shouted anytime you light the first shell in a show. It's like a golfer saying "Fore!" Basically it means "get the Hell out of the way!"

Low Break - When a shell comes out of a tube or cake and does not go to it's full height. Instead it generally falls to the ground and explodes. This is one of the most dangerous hazards because not only can it injure fireworks personell, it can accidentally light other effects prematurely.

Break Out - When a cake literally breaks out the side of it's confining box and starts shooting shells sideways. Or when a cake tips over on it's side while firing. A very dangerous circumstance. To avoid this we always stake cakes down to the ground and wrap them with bailing wire to hold them together. A B Class Cake called a Poisonous Spider is notorious for breaking out and since it is a 1,000 shot cake, it provides a particular danger.

Squib - The exploding cap which actually ignites the fuses in an electronically fired show.

Firemen Scare Us - Another inside joke because every summer, dozens of trained fire personell are injured because they think because they understand fire, they also understand fireworks and end up losing hands, legs, heads and etc for doing something stupid around fireworks.

There will be a test later on.




( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 29th, 2002 10:10 pm (UTC)
If you got the free time head on over our way.


Apr. 30th, 2002 06:50 am (UTC)
Re: Hey!
I agree. Please do drop in on us if you can!

Apr. 30th, 2002 09:12 am (UTC)
Re: Hey!
If for some reason we end up spending an extra day, I'll do it but the schedule is a little tight for it right now.

No rest for the wicked ya know.

Apr. 30th, 2002 07:55 am (UTC)
Re: Hey!
I doubt we will which is why I was explaining to your lady last week that you guys should come out in June. This will be a very fast trip for us.

Apr. 29th, 2002 10:37 pm (UTC)
hmm...what can I say? I'm soooo jealous that Ryl and DragoneerL get to tag along with you.


think of me when things go kaboom, okay?

Apr. 30th, 2002 07:57 am (UTC)

Make the trip out the week of the 4th of July to Illinois and you can be right there when we fire the really big guns.

i'll send you a video of the Nc performance though if you want.

Apr. 30th, 2002 03:14 pm (UTC)
you'd do that for me? aww! *hugs you*

I already have 4th of July plans but if you wanna send me the video, that would really make my millenium. Well, not really. Maybe it would make my month. But hey, that's still pretty good. *smiles*

*hugs you again* Take care sweetie!
Apr. 30th, 2002 02:27 pm (UTC)
That sounds so very very cool. I'm jealous of myself.

I got the shirt today, thanks!
Apr. 30th, 2002 02:36 pm (UTC)
I trust it fits well enough. Your buddy got an XL, hopefully it's not too large. I was going to be cruel and get you both the same color so you'd look like twins but I decided not to be so evil. For grins and giggles lets say meet at the Camp around 1 pm on Saturday. For the shoot you will need jeans and a long sleeved 100% cotton shirt. I'll bring you a helmet with face and ear protection and that should be all you need. Be sure to wear the t-shirt so people know you are official.


Apr. 30th, 2002 03:09 pm (UTC)
It fits nicely. I'm glad you didn't get us the same color, although it would take more than a shirt to get us to look alike.

*waits for Saturday*

*taps watch*

*gives up and plays a game*
Apr. 30th, 2002 03:14 pm (UTC)
The excitement has been with me all week. Deb is getting annoyed with me I think. I added paranoia last night. Just wanting everything to go right.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


Wander aka StoneBear
Bear Dancer Studios

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