Creating the magic of a fireworks display involves a lot of work

Creating the magic of a fireworks display involves a lot of work

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file photo/Kim Cameron Fire Up the Sky owner, Ken Wilkinson stands next to a larger firework on the cliffs. The fireworks are wrapped in plastic to keep them dry if it rains. Before they are used, the plastic is torn off. In the background is the Gore Canyon.
file photo/Kim Cameron Fire Up the Sky owner, Ken Wilkinson stands next to a larger firework on the cliffs. The fireworks are wrapped in plastic to keep them dry if it rains. Before they are used, the plastic is torn off. In the background is the Gore Canyon.

by Jill Wilkinson

“Every year, after the sun goes down on Independence Day, breathtaking fireworks displays fill America’s skies. Have you ever wondered how this magic is made?”

“For Ken Wilkinson, owner of Fire in the Sky, the local company that shoots off Kremmling’s fireworks, preparations for July 4th begin a few months before, and the cleanup lasts a few days after.”

“The whole show begins with choreographing. The operator must decide what kind of effects they want to achieve, accounting for space, length of the show, and of course, budget. Once that is decided, the fireworks are ordered and shipped on semi trailers. Fourth of July fireworks usually arrive sometime in February.”

“Each firework requires its own tube. These tubes are lined up in wooden racks, which typically hold three rows of tubes. The tubes can be bolted into racks in different configurations depending on what effect the display operator is hoping to achieve. Often, the outside rows of tubes are angled out. Any tubes larger than six inches must be buried in the ground because the wooden racks are unable to safely launch fireworks of larger caliber. For the past five years, West End Rentals has been donating their time and equipment to bury the tubes for Fire in the Sky a day or two before the fourth.”

“Early on the morning of the fourth, all the racks and fireworks are trailered up to the cliffs. The racks are placed along the cliff edge, spanning about 1,600 feet. Throughout the day, each firework is loaded into its tube and is wired into a firing box. The operator creates a map of the tubes detailing which fireworks will be wired together and which slot in the field module they will be wired into. Fire in the Sky uses wireless remote firing equipment.”

“In addition to the fireworks loaded in the tubes, display operators also use shot boxes. Shot boxes typically come in a cardboard box and contain about 100- 300 shots. Once they are lit, all the shots fire until the box is empty.”

“Once all the fireworks are loaded and wired, a continuity test is performed. Each field module is connected to a test box. The test box has a light for each slot that fireworks can be wired into. If the light is on, the fireworks wired into that slot are ready to fire. If the light does not come on, then it is time to troubleshoot. Usually the wires just need to be readjusted, but sometimes they have to be replaced.”

“After all the fireworks have been tested, the show is ready. A member of the crew stays in contact with the town manager, so when it is time for the show, the street lights in town can be turned off.”

“Then the magic begins. During the show, the operator and helpers are about 100 feet away from the fireworks. Everyone pays close attention in case a firework misfires or goes off too low. Also, everyone keeps an eye out for fires. Each firework goes up in one piece and comes down in a shower of debris. These pieces sometimes come down still burning. After the finale, the crew gives”

“about 20 minutes for everything to cool down,and to put out any fires. Then, the equipment is carefully checked and the racks are loaded back on the trailer. July 5th is cleanup day. The crew comes back with gloves and garbage bags and spends several hours cleaning up all of the debris e rest of the equipment”

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