Fireworks - My Hobby
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A couple TB friends have asked about my hobby - pyrotechnician! Well, let me try to explain! I set up and shoot the beautiful fireworks you see that light up the sky! Several years ago, I began an association with a guy who sold the fireworks to our local Chamber of Commerce. I'm also on the local fire department whose members have set up and shot the local Independence Day display. Once I met Jon, I first began as his assistant and have since hired my own crew, became a licensed shooter, and work long hours for the enjoyment of hearing people appreciate the light show in the sky!
Every year, an Ohio based shooter, depending on state regulations, must have a background check and fingerprints taken, take a test for licensing or continuing education if previously licensed, and demonstrate the safe usage of these explosives.
Once all the preliminary work is completed, it is time to load my trailer with the needed supplies. I have a box type trailer I pull behind my pickup truck to each show. Inside, I have several boxes with tools (hammers, pry bars, duct tape, etc.), two or three pop up style shelters (good for sun or rain), and a generator with lights (needed for clean up after the show). A couple other boxes contain safety helmets and goggles, and dark cotton clothing.
Work at show sites usually begins at daybreak. The truck or trucks will arrive on site full of mortar tubes and product. It is much cooler in the morning for unloading, lifting and assembling mortar racks. Building the racks takes several hours. Each must be placed and stabilized for safety. Since we are working in areas with no shade, those pop up shelters come in handy! By midday, product is normally unloaded from boxes and placed on the mortar racks.
Once all the shells have been loaded and wired to the firebox, another wire must be run from the firebox to the main control center. The center is usually set up in the area, but a safe distance from the mortars. Care must be taken once the wires are connected to the main not to step on any wire running along the ground.
About an hour prior to the show, a continuity check is performed. By this time, all workers should have everything wired and ready to go. This test is important since it will show any wiring problems. If problems occur, helpers will then go back to square one, check wiring from the shell to the firebox to the control center. This step may take several tries and hopefully completed with some time to stash all unnecessary items in the trailer.
Now it is a waiting game. Some shows are coordinated with the local radio station to music. A countdown to show time begins, and excitement builds. We may work a couple days on set up for a 30 minute show. Conditions are usually poor - located in remote areas, buggy, hot, and dirty.
As the show begins, I work behind the control panel or box. I press the buttons connected to the wires and fire the shells. One helper is assigned a watch making sure I pace myself for the duration of the show. Most of us wear some sort of light attached to a hat or around our head. Most shows are between 20 and 30 minutes in length. Those fired by computer are the easiest. One button shoots and sets the pace for the whole show. There are also hand fired shows, usually small in numbers. Each helper is clothed in dark all cotton clothing, safety helmet and glasses, and given a fusee to hand light the fuse.
After a specified length of time to allow the area to "cool" down, myself and the workers examine the mortar tubes and boxes looking for shells that may not have gone up. These will be handled very carefully and boxed for return to the company. The tubes will be cleaned, disassembled, and loaded on the truck for use next time. All garbage in the area will be cleaned up and disposed.
The popularity of shows around the Fourth of July usually finds me and my crew on the road to the next show very early in the morning - sometimes with only a few hours sleep. It is hard work and long hours, but very rewarding! Communication between my crew and others is important for swapping equipment and trucks. I appreciate the time my crew gives up around the holiday just to help me! It isn't all work, as we have fun during lunch breaks and waiting times.