Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

5 Questions with a fire inspector about Fourth of July fireworks

What comes to mind when you think of FOURTH of July fireworks?

Schlepping lawn chairs and bug spray and coolers to the beach or the park to watch the beautiful bursts in the sky? Or sticking them in the ground in the back yard, lighting the fuses and running away as fast as you can? (Not a good idea, by the way.) • You might never think of the dangers involved but, thankfully, there are safety experts who do. • We asked this month's 5 Questions of Artie Taylor, Hillsborough County fire inspector, who has spent decades making sure everyone is safe during pyrotechnic events — including the granddaddy of them all, the Fourth of July. Patti Ewald, Times staff writer

1 What has been your most memorable Fourth of July fireworks show and why?

The show at Coachman Park in Clearwater in 2008. Bell's Fireworks put on a seminar in which they shot off the biggest, baddest fireworks during a daytime preshoot. I always knew about setbacks (the audience has to be 70 feet away for every inch of mortar diameter) but when I saw the debris fall during daylight hours, when you could really see it fall, I realized how important it is.

2 How much does a Fourth of July fireworks show cost and who pays for it?

The shows cost tens of thousands of dollars and are usually paid for with donations or by sponsors. Municipalities used to pay for them but they just don't have the money anymore.

3 You must have a lot of great stories. Please tell us one.

This one is about Christmas, not Fourth of July. About six years ago, the Idlewild (Baptist Church in Lutz) was doing an indoor Christmas show with pyrotechnics. The stage was set up with biblical caves the kids had made out of untreated fabric. A lot of stuff had to come down. I felt bad about making them do it and the kids were unhappy but later they all thanked me.

Fire codes are constantly being rewritten after historical fire deaths. A lot of codes for indoor pyrotechnics were changed after 100 people died at the Great White show in 2003 in Rhode Island.

That's what intrigues me about the job, it's always changing.

4 How have you seen fireworks change over the years?

There are more available. They are in abundance and there are more injuries. In the U.S. in 2010, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, eight people died, 8,600 went to the emergency room and there were 15,000 fires resulting in $36 million in property loss, all because of fireworks.

5 If you could tell people one thing about backyard fireworks, what would it be?

Save your money and go to public shoots. They are permitted and insured.

And, to see the big fireworks, you have to go to the big shows.

5 Questions with a fire inspector about Fourth of July fireworks 06/26/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings