Has your town or city canceled fireworks displays over fears of COVID-19? Are you just looking to celebrate a holiday that doesn’t fall into the usual rotation of American holidays at which fireworks are ignited – say, Bastille Day or Canada Day?
You don’t have to be a pyrotechnics professional to put on a dazzling home fireworks display. All you need is an adequate amount of space, safety equipment, and some supplies. Follow these tips to put on a home fireworks display to rival the pros.
Fireworks are basically explosives, and they can be dangerous. Any time you’re working with fireworks or anything that needs to be ignited, it’s important to follow safety guidelines. Never light a firework while you’re holding it in your hands. Never point lit fireworks at someone else. Always light off fireworks outdoors.
You’ll also need some safety gear to protect yourself from burns while you’re igniting the fireworks display. Wear a long-sleeved top and long pants – choose clothing made out of 100 percent cotton, because it won’t melt into your skin, so you’re less likely to be severely burned if it catches on fire. Close-toed work boots, socks, gloves, safety goggles, and a construction hat or ball cap turned backwards will offer protection for your face, neck, eyes, and hands. Have a first aid kid at hand, as well as fire extinguishers, a water hose, or buckets of water to put out any flames that may spread.
Perhaps the main reason why many people don’t light off roman candles, bottle rockets, mortar cakes, and other aerial fireworks at home is that they don’t have the space – and you need a lot of space to safely put on a fireworks display.
First of all, your spectators need to be upwind of the display, so that falling sparks don’t blow in their direction. They should be well back from the firing line – at least one and a half times as far as your highest aerial firework will fly. So, if your highest aerial firework shoots to a height of 140 feet, your spectators should be 210 feet away from the firing line.
Your fallout zone, which is the area in front of the firing line, should be free of power lines, buildings, and trees. Figure out the break, or display width, of your largest, highest-flying aerial, and make sure you have enough room in the fallout zone to accommodate that. If it’s windy on the day of the performance, you should postpone, because wind can push fireworks and their sparks out of the firing area and make the show more dangerous.
You may want to start your display with some ground fireworks, like fountains and smoke bombs, before moving on to aerial fireworks. You may want to ignite smaller aerials, like roman candles and bottle rockets, at the beginning of your show, working up to larger displays at the end. You’ll probably want to finish off with an impressive finale – set aside one third to one half of your fireworks budget for the finale alone. Most people buy cakes for their finale. If you’re on a budget, 200- to 300-gram cakes will offer an impressive display and plenty of loud bangs.
For safety as well as ease of firing, your fireworks should be securely fastened to a wooden rack before ignition. This way, they can’t fall over, shooting sparks and flame into your crowd of spectators or directly at you. Lengths of plywood cut two feet wide by eight feet long, with some lengths of two-by-four lumber screwed to the bottom, should be heavy enough to hold your fireworks in place as they ignite.
You can screw your mortars, mines, and other fireworks directly to the wood through their plastic base. If you grab a firework that doesn’t have a plastic base, you can usually put a screw through the bottom of the tube – most fireworks have a disc of clay in the bottom. If you don’t feel like doing a woodworking project, you can thrust your fireworks into buckets of sand to hold them steady while they’re erupting. Arrange your fireworks in firing order on the rack or in the buckets. If it’s going to be raining, you can cover your fireworks in aluminum foil or plastic wrap to keep them dry – you don’t even need to remove the wrapping before you fire them.
A home fireworks show can be a great way to celebrate a summer’s evening or get everyone together for a memorable holiday. Plan your home display right, and you might find yourself appointed the unofficial pyrotechnics expert of the family.