About FIREWORKS!... a few days late

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Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
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Having been a member of the PGI for a number of years a number of years ago, I encourage those seriously interested in fireworks to join this organization for at least a year and attend one of their week-long fireworks conventions:

PGI site:

PGI Bulletin info:


They have a number of seminars each day of the convention and circus tents full of every kind of consumer firework available, including "antique" fireworks. In 1977, the CPSC got their big noses into the game and mandated a reduction in 1 1/2" flashcracker flashpowder content from up to 200 mg of flashpowder depending upon the brand to a maximum of 50 mg. For a very reasonable price I purchased a large string (100 IIRC) of pre-1977 crackers and lit them (putting the label in my collection; I have a small firecracker label collection that's stored away somewhere; very cool and colorful artwork). Those crackers were L-O-U-D! By comparison, modern 50mg cracker are cr*p.

They have commercial fireworks demos as promos to show operators, demos of product for fireworks stand owners, and competition events for amateur firework makers. They put on a large convention opening show of professional display fireworks that is closed to the public and a larger convention closing show open to the public, but PGI members are in the best viewing location with the public farther away.

During the display events not open to the public you'll see amazing stuff you will never see most anywhere else in the US because the amateur made items are either too expensive to use commercially or are considered too unsafe for liability reasons for your normal general public audience. The only place I've ever seen girandolas launched was at these convention shows. At another, I saw aerial shells during the public event all of which had electronic fuses for timing accuracy so that bursts would be perfectly synced with music broadcast for the event over a local FM radio station.

The public event is opened by the ignition of a huge string of Chinese festival crackers. BTW, these aren't even the best strings I've seen:


The consumer fireworks sold in the circus tents are fired by the PGI member purchasers under strict PGI member volunteer supervision although from what I saw it wasn't that necessary as members didn't seem to be irresponsible idiots or allow their kids to act like idiots. Among things I've seen done there was members (including me) contributing a brick of 1 1/2" crackers to a GIANT public pile of them which was then lit. At one of the conventions we heard an ambulance (the PGI has its own beauty manned with paramedics and MDs who are PGI members) and everyone wondered if someone had been injured by consumer fireworks. NOPE, suspected heart attack.

Those experiences brought me to this idea: make ALL consumer fireworks legal in ALL states with this major, legislated caveat - all MUST be purchased and fired ON SITE and UNDER SUPERVISION. Entry and exit control just as with sporting events in stadiums would prevent fireworks leaving the site. Food concession stands and the circus tents of fireworks would be a safe distance from the firing area which would be, as it was in the case of a number of conventions I attended, a level DIRT field with a firing line marked along its length with a safe distance from the fireworks to be fired. If desired beyond a just a paper handout of rules and liability disclaimer given to the ADULTS entering the area alone or with children, a liability waiver document could be required to be signed. NO SMOKING in the sales tents, NO ALCOHOL, NO INEBRIATED INDIVIDUALS allowed on site. Violate a rule and you are escorted off-site by hired off-duty police and whatever fireworks you have left to shoot confiscated.

If this was done on a widespread basis or, better yet, on an EXCLUSIVE basis in a state, injuries and fires could be GREATLY reduced. Let people get their pyro fix safely on the weekend before the 4th and on the 4th.

Fireworks laws by state


Graphic of same



Chinese Consumer Fireworks


Americans will spend more than $900 million this year on bottle rockets, Roman candles, and other fireworks. But those of us who want to celebrate Independence Day with a bang are almost totally dependent on China for supplies.

"Ninety-nine percent of the backyard consumer fireworks come directly from China," said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. "And about 70 percent of the professional display fireworks are manufactured in China."

It wasn't always this way. A lot of fireworks used to be made in the Midwest, by companies like American Fireworks. Vincenzo Sorgi started the Ohio-based business in 1902, after immigrating from Italy.
He "came through Ellis Island, which then they called the 'Fireworks Beltway,' " said Roberto Sorgi, his great-great-grandson. "Like a lot of the other families that came over, [he] brought a lot of the recipes that their families had used in Italy. So we had two or three generations [of fireworks makers] back in Italy as well."

For much of the last century, Italian transplants dominated the fireworks business, mostly producing pyrotechnics for their own shows.

"We manufactured pretty much everything from scratch," Roberto Sorgi said, "from the stars to putting the shell-casings together to the fuse itself and all the attachments in between."

Around the time of the American bicentennial in 1976, demand for fireworks began to outstrip the U.S. supply, so companies like Sorgi's began importing — from Italy, Mexico, and especially China. This is not a case of China stealing American know-how. The Chinese invented fireworks in the Tang Dynasty more than a thousand years ago.

"Manufacturing fireworks is very labor-intensive," Heckman added. "As the regulations got tighter and people really aren't interested in making things by hand, it made sense to rely more on China to handle that production."

Last year imports of fireworks dwarfed exports by a ratio of more than 40 to 1. But so far, that exploding trade deficit has not prompted the kind of protectionist crackdown that President Trump has directed at other industries.

"Thankfully, the fireworks industry has not been impacted by the tariffs," Heckman said. "We are watching it very, very closely."

Fireworks dealers warn adding a tariff to Chinese imports would turn their sparkling business into a dud. And make no mistake: the domestic business of selling and showcasing fireworks is booming. Sorgi's company has been adding workers year by year. Without the chore of having to hand-craft the rockets, they're able to stage hundreds more shows each year, and not just during this busy Fourth of July season.
"It's becoming a year-round thing where it used to be once or twice a year," Sorgi said. "So the industry as a whole has really just taken off to another level."

What's more, mass-produced Chinese fireworks are now safe enough to be sold legally in nearly every state, and consumer purchases have skyrocketed, from $284 million in 1998 to $885 million last year.


From what I see here, I wonder how often these mom and pop places blow up:

What appears to be a much larger operation:

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Dangerous hobby, like skydiving or riding motorcycles. There have been many fireworks factories go boom. All it takes is a tiny static charge.
Or spark from an electric tool.

Remember that model rocketry was created to get kids away from trying to make their own engines, turns out that match heads and pipes are a bad combination.

I am not against them, it is funny that in my state buying them is legal, but not setting them off. Many do anyway, of course, and enforcement is rare. If you are going to mess with this stuff, then set up a safe work area, and follow precautions. Remember that just about every rocket motor factory has had accidents, 6 dead at one of them I won't mention. Probably would help to avoid large stores of supplies, break them up into smaller packages and separate with a lot of space, in metal boxes.



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Cool videos. However, fireworks on a rocketry forum might be a little bit not so good. Reason being Estes Rockets spent a lot of time and money in court to seperate rocketry from fireworks. After considerable efforts were put into suing the US Government, rocketry won big on that day. Many other fliers have spent considerable time and money insuring rocketry is safe and also protecting how the hobby is perceived by authorities and the public.
Also I don't know about TRF policies regarding dangerous items discussions being allowed.
Or code violations.
You just NECRO'D a thread from 5 years ago that only had 2 posts.

Should have left it alone, now its top of list on the feeds.

I do agree, that as interesting as the video is, this does not belong on the Rockerty Fourm since we spend so much time and effort, not to be lumped into that title.

This thread should be locked and or deleted.
I was a PGI member for 15-20 years. PGI is fully as dedicated to safety, specific to their activities, as NAR or TRA. Areas set off for different activities: skyrockets, large ground salutes, some aerial salutes, areas for construction, etc. When you bought fireworks there and wanted to set them off, you had to have safety glasses and they had to be set off in a certain way; "cakes" were partly buried in a bin of sand, etc. Sparklers...you pretty much didn't see them except at the vendors. The members knew that sparklers are responsible for more injuries than any other item. And they weren't for kids.

Certainly the displays were exceptional. Members had a special place to sit, to best view what people had made. Some filled the sky so much that the eye couldn't take in the whole burst...too wide. And members had to wear eye protection there too, because you were pelted by ash and bits of cardboard.

If you enjoy fireworks and do them some with the family, you'd do well to read up on the safety information in the first post and elsewhere. (NO ALCOHOL! PERIOD!!)
PGI is a great event. I was even one of the medics one year. I'm a firm believer that our hobbies have more in common than not. Both groups work as safely as possible for an entertaining and challenging hobby. I also LOVE the whoosh and slow rise of a big black powder rocket.
The worm farm disaster changed the field of forensics too. The book about it is an interesting, but sobering read. We were once hand mixing a binary composition used for cannon hit simulators and it was hard not to think of that disaster while we were working.

One key important take away which applies to rocketry is to minimize any exposed mixtures while you are working. Even if you aren't making motors or ignitors, and just use BP ejection charges, this still applies. Keep your can of BP covered any prepped charges covered and safely stored for later use. E-matches need to be treated with the same respect.