Sunday, July 06, 2014

An incendiary Fourth of July

Some stories are just too good not to pass along.
At dusk on the Independence Day holiday, several thousand people -- locals, tourists, families of every sort -- assembled at the Whitefish, MT city beach to watch the town fireworks display.

The setting is so lovely, it almost seemed it would been enough simply to enjoy the sunset, but the crowd waited eagerly for the show. Around the shoreline, random fireworks were fired off -- fireworks are legal in Montana and sold along seemingly every highway.

Out on the lake, small boats with their bright running lights flashing, gathered for the show.

I had decided not to bring my big camera, only my cell phone; I wanted to be a participant in this holiday ritual, not an observer.

And so, finally, around 10:30 pm, it was dark enough for the show to begin; the crowd responded with appropriate "oohs" and "aaahs" as the sparks fell.

But soon it was obvious something was amiss out on the water. On the barge where the fireworks were being launched, flames leaped up. Once these seemed to have been doused; then even more flames jumped higher.

As the fireworks display moved into what seemed a crescendo of falling rockets, it became obvious that the barge itself was burning vigorously.

Clearly the show was over. People sitting around us were laughing. "Just like last year -- they burned up the barge trying to put on the show!" explained our neighbor.

Here's an account from the local news:

Big Sky Fireworks Pyrotechnic Expert Dan Schuler says sparks from the fireworks caused the barge to catch fire Friday night, similar to last year.

"When the fireworks go up, there's a lift charge that lifts them out of the tube," Schuler explained. "And with that comes sparks and some pretty big embers. This is a small barge, so the embers just don't have anywhere to go."

The Big Sky Fireworks crew was able to put out two minor fires before a larger one took hold, forcing the show to come to an early close.

... "We train very well to stay safe. We weigh every decision, and you know, last year we let the fire burn just to keep the show going, and we did similar this year. The fire that did start the main fire was in the middle of fireworks, so I couldn't get in early enough to put that one out. There's nothing out there that's worth anybody."

When asked if there were any lessons learned from last year's incident, Schuler said fireworks are very flammable, even when all precautions are taken.

The damage from Friday night's fire is estimated to be over $10,000 dollars. Nobody was on the barge during the show, the fireworks are shot remotely from a nearby boat.

So nobody was hurt. And the crowd was cheerfully good-natured throughout. Still, the incident suggested all sorts of metaphors about the national day that I don't much want to spell out.


Rain Trueax said...

That is really funny. I have spent more time in Missoula, Bozeman and Billings than Whitefish but it's beautiful up that way. Nice way to do a book tour combining the enjoyable with the promotion.

Hattie said...

That's too funny! I think a whole genre of failed 4th of July fireworks displays could develop. Our celebration in Hilo has always been a joke, and this year it was hilariously lame.

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