Fireworks and their Hazards

Thomas J. Poulton, M.D and Kenneth L. Kosanke, Ph.D.

“What are fireworks like?” she had asked.

“They are like the Aurora Borealis,” said the King, “only much more natural. I prefer them to stars myself, as you always know when they are going to appear….”                Oscar Wilde, The Remarkable Rocket.

Although appreciative audiences may value the predictability of fireworks, firefighters, unlike the king in The Remarkable Rocket, know that on occasion they may not be so reliable. When the first-due company finds it is dealing with fireworks, it is in an unusual situation that requires specific technical knowledge to ensure the safest possible outcome.

Scope of the Challenge: During the past 15 years, the quantity of fireworks used in the United States has more than doubled to approximately 100 million pounds annually. Although fireworks remain most popular over the Fourth of July holiday, their use is now common throughout the year at theme parks, fairs, and public events. Performing artists have greatly expanded the use of pyrotechnic displays to enhance the entertainment value of concerts, plays, and other stage productions. In a recent year, the U.S. Fire Administration reported that approximately 6,000 (less than one percent) of the almost one million fires occurring in the United States involved fireworks. The average loss per incident was less than $2,000.

Ref: Selected Pyrotechnic Publication of K.L. and B.J Kosanke, Part 4, (1995-1997), pp 4-15

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