PJ BLOGGER

Local 4th of July Fireworks Displays May Be Lackluster

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2008 at 4:05 pm

May 17, 2008

This July 4, Fewer Bombs May Burst in Air

THE NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times

By KATE MURPHY

An explosion that destroyed 20 fireworks warehouses in China three months ago will probably dim night skies in the United States this Fourth of July.

Fireworks vendors said that because of the sudden shortage, fireworks like bottle rockets, ladyfingers and Roman candles, as well as mortars used in professional displays, will be hard to get, meaning many of the usual pyrotechnic extravaganzas across the country may have to be curtailed or even canceled.

“Everybody in the industry is scared to death that their orders aren’t going to get here in time,” said Ken Sprague, president of Hamburg Fireworks Display in Lancaster, Ohio, which choreographs fireworks shows throughout the Midwest. “I haven’t slept a full night in months.”

The blast on Feb. 14 in the Chinese port city of Sanshui shook homes miles away and fireworks soared and burst in midair for more than 24 hours, according to local news reports. It is unclear whether anyone was harmed.

The accident led to a ban on fireworks shipments at all Chinese ports except two that are far from fireworks production areas, resulting in further delays.

“We’re not getting much information about what caused the fire,” said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, which represents the $900 million fireworks industry in the United States. “We’ve heard reports ranging from improperly packaged material to a security guard flicking a cigarette.”

The result, she says, is that exports of consumer fireworks from China are down 35 percent this year and professional display fireworks are down 40 percent. Many shipments have not even left factories in Liu Yang, a city in Hunan Province, where more than 95 percent of fireworks sold in the United States are made.

When fireworks shipments arrive at the shallow port of Beihai, they may sit on the docks for weeks waiting for transfer to cargo ships anchored outside Hong Kong harbor.

Only one shipping line, Maersk, will handle pyrotechnics after Hyundai Merchant Marine discontinued service following a blaze aboard one of its vessels carrying fireworks in 2006.

“It’s been a perfect storm,” said Harry Chang, president of marketing for Black Cat fireworks, a division of Shiu Fung Fireworks in Hong Kong. Wholesale prices for fireworks are up 30 percent this year, he said, because of the limited supply, as well as higher shipping costs and increased prices for chemicals, paper and labor.

“People will need to be prepared to dig deeper,” said William A. Weimer, vice president of the B. J. Alan Company in Youngstown, Ohio, one of the largest importers of fireworks in the United States.

Because he ordered earlier than usual this year, he already has 85 percent of his shipments from China. “A lot of other guys are in big trouble,” he said, adding that he has received frantic calls from competitors hoping to buy some of his inventory. “It looks like some communities aren’t going to have shows this year.”

American manufacturers of munitions and demolition explosives said they were getting inquiries from fireworks show operators, hoping they can custom-make shells for them.

Bill Bahr, president of Red Dragon Tactical Supplies in Farmingdale, N.J., which makes various training devices for the State Department, said he was going to try to shift some production over to fireworks but “there’s only so much we can do.”

Transporting explosives has become difficult since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, so “people are going to have to come here and get it,” he said.

If shipments do not leave China in the next two weeks, millions of pounds of fireworks may not make it to the United States in time for the Fourth of July.

Jim Souza, president of Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, the company based in Rialto, Calif., that handles the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks display in New York, said he had not yet received two of his shipping containers. But, he said, “the show will go on.”

Labor Day, Christmas and New Year’s fireworks displays are even more doubtful since the Chinese government announced on April 14 that it would ban the transport of some 256 types of hazardous or potential explosive materials on various dates through October to coincide with planned Olympic events.

This includes not only fireworks and the chemicals used to make them but also substances used in some pharmaceuticals, coolants, solvents and cosmetics.

Bob Richard, deputy associate administrator for hazardous material safety with the Department of Transportation, said he was working to get the Chinese government to rethink its directive, considering the “serious impact” it would have on the fireworks industry and the “entire supply chain.”

He said his department was also working on a long-term plan to get more ports open to fireworks by providing Chinese officials with guidance on better packaging, labeling and enforcement.

“The last thing we want is a shortage to force the market underground,” Mr. Richard said.

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  1. that will not do anything to ridgewood fire works.the show wil go on.

  2. the fire works wil be on. dont you worry about.ha,ha,

  3. wooo,aaaaaa,ooooooo,wow,no its not set its the fire crackers.

  4. Those of you who have posted (5:01, 9:28, 4:52) — do you know anything about how this event is produced in Ridgewood, co-ordinated with the all the affected Village departments, and paid for?? Please share. . .

  5. yes i do.can you say valley.

  6. Do you really think that Valley Hospital arranges for the entire celebration?

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