For those of you watching the spectacular fireworks display over the Hood River marina July Fourth, you may have left wondering a bit about an unusual pause in the action just prior to the finale.
For those at the waterfront, there was little mystery, as the cause of the delay was evident in a split second of sparkling glory.
According to Russ Paddock, Eyeopeners Lions Club pyrotechnic-in-charge, one of the firework shells blew inside its plastic mortar tube, completely destroying one entire launch rack and five additional tubes.
"We had to stop. Shells were lying on the ground. We had to disconnect wires to shells and figure out which ones were attached to burned wires," said Paddock.
According to Paddock, this is the first time one of his state-of-the-art plastic tubes has blown. The blast sent debris in a 15-foot radius. Luckily, it was a tube in the middle of the rack.
"If the tube had been on the end and the rack had gone over sideways, it might have sent things all the way out over the Second Street overpass," said Paddock, "and that would have caused some excitement."
Once the initial crisis passed, the team of 15 additional Lions members and friends worked to successfully send up the finale. For those paying attention, the team also sent up the salvaged firework shells about half an hour after the finale.
"We had a show after the show," laughed Paddock, who has been doing his volunteer job to bring in the Fourth since 1978.
The explosion cost the Lions some equipment, including junction boxes, racks and cables.
"We were already about $3,000 short on the costs for this year's display," said Paddock. "Now we'll have to raise money to replace the destroyed equipment. People get a $45,000 show here for $15,000 with all of our volunteer labor. We could sure use the donations to help out. It'll cost another $500 to $1,000 to replace the destroyed equipment."
No one was injured during the event. The plastic mortar tubes are the safest possible launch equipment and shells are ignited by electronic controls, allowing volunteers to stay behind the safety lines.
"But every year I still worry," said Paddock, who places a high priority on safety. "I think we will be showing these photos to our supplier and ask them 'What happened?'"
Eyeopeners Lions can accept and will appreciate donations mailed to: 1767 12th St. #136, Hood River, OR 97031.