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Faulty fireworks add thrill to show

Pleasant Grove crowd gets sparks, soot, fires

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Pleasant Grove's fiery Fourth of July celebrations ended Wednesday with a little more flare than some onlookers liked.

After two fireworks failed to properly explode as part of the city's annual display, an errant rocket that was supposed to be part of the grand finale of the fireworks show zoomed straight toward nearby dry vegetation and sparked several spot fires around Pleasant Grove High School.

The fires were quickly extinguished by the city's brush trucks, which were already on

scene in case of such an event, and no one was hurt, but some spectators were scared by the burning rubble, nonetheless.

"People were saying, 'That was the most exciting fireworks we've ever been to,"' said Debbie Valgardson, a Lindon resident who attended the show. "But we were all running for cover, grabbing blankets and covering up. It was pretty scary right there at the end when that one (firework) went off and the firefighters started running. We just got up and got out of there."

According to Pleasant Grove Fire Capt. Steven Brande, malfunctioning fireworks are uncommon. The fire department regularly runs the city's celebratory fireworks show, and mishaps only happen once every couple of years, Brande said.

In this case, three of the fireworks fizzled out in one night.

"It's pretty uncommon for us, but we had some shells that wouldn't ignite and a couple of canisters that blew out of the bottom," Brande said. "For the most part, we can predict how (the fireworks) will respond, but we can't predict how the tubes of the supplier will hold up during the firing."

Brande said the department this year launched its fireworks from a different site — the high school football field — because the usual area, the school's soccer field, is under construction and the ground wasn't level.

Brande said the spot fires would have been sparked even if the fireworks were detonated from their usual location.

Throughout the event, spectators had a lot to see in planned and accidental pyrotechnics.

The first faulty firework detonated about 6 feet above ground, says Michael Mills, an Orem resident who watched the show.

"It looked like tongues of flame coming directly towards you," Mills said. "I saw burning material miss me by just a couple of feet. We were looking at our clothing to see if we saw any burned places. It was pretty exciting."

The firefighters stopped the show for a few minutes to extinguish any lingering fuses on undetonated fireworks at that point, then resumed the launch with some successful rockets.

Mills said the second firework mishap sent burning particulates drifting onto the crowd in a "snowstorm of soot." Then, during the big finale, a third firework launched sideways amid sparks and flame.

"People just got the heck out of Dodge then," Mills said.

Brande says the fire department previously roped off the area that caught fire as a zone that people shouldn't be near in case the wind carried some sparks too far. The foresight paid off, despite any mishaps.

"For the most part, people live for that stuff," Brande said. "But we try to take it on the side of safety first, so we do the best we can to prevent it."

E-mail: achoate@desnews.com