Fireworks Disaster on the Fourth of July

posted on 7/2/13

The Fourth of July is a time for celebrating our independence as a nation. Tradition dictates that these patriotic festivities include a radical fireworks display that will light up the night with dazzling glory. Dangerous explosives and crowds of drunken revelers: who could imagine such a combination resulting in horrific tragedy? In a perfect world, these illuminating spectacles would never result in mass hysteria or loss of limbs. However, we do not live in a perfect world. Here we explore some Fourth of July fireworks disaster tales that have made the news in recent years for their traumatic outcomes.



Last summer in San Diego, half a million people were gathered around the bay area to behold a Fourth of July fireworks display that was intended to last 17 minutes. Instead, a computer malfunction caused the entire cache of fireworks to be ignited at the same time, lasting less than 30 seconds. While the premature eruption was a disappointment to viewers, at least they were able to get the fireworks up at all! Luckily no one was injured, but city officials were understandably upset with the Garden State Fireworks company that was responsible for the incident.

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Residents of Laredo, Texas were subject to terrifying a fireworks disaster on the Fourth of July in 2011. Due to exceptionally dry conditions that summer, a county judge had ruled to ban all fireworks displays by anyone other than a licensed pyrotechnics expert at authorized events. According to local news reports, a permitted show that attracted hundreds of residents was a scene of panic when some rogue fireworks accidentally discharged into the crowd. Two people were transported to the hospital, including one minor who was suffering from second and third degree burns.

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On the same Fourth of July as the Laredo fireworks disaster, another gruesome story was unfolding in Fargo, North Dakota. Witnesses saw an area man, Jesse Burley, lighting off illegal fireworks in his mobile home community. Neighbors were concerned by the powerful explosions, which were shaking the ground beneath them and causing wall decorations to fall to the floor. One last blast sent shockwaves through the air, and when the smoke cleared, Mr. Burley’s body was found decapitated.



Not all fireworks disaster stories are the result of unintentional mishaps. In 2007, the town of Port Richey, Florida was riveted by the antics of a pyromaniac who used a poorly guarded fireworks tent as his personal playground. The devious culprit, Tony Glenn Rogers, snuck into the tent which contained a stockpile of fireworks valued at $70,000 and proceeded to light a mortar-style firework called the “High and Mighty” before absconding into the night. What happened next was a chain reaction of terrifying beauty. Unfortunately, the local authorities and owners of the property were not impressed with Mr. Rogers’ unscheduled display. He was apprehended and sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison, in addition to being ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution.

We hope that these fireworks disaster stories may serve as cautionary tales for your Fourth of July festivities. These impressive displays are best left to the pyrotechnics professionals, although sometimes even they are unable to control the unpredictable explosives. In order to avoid any hazards please follow these fireworks safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

– Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

– Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

– Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.

– Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

– Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

– Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

– Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

– Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

– Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

– After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

– Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

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