I work with professional fireworks and done so for a while now, in light of being 4th of July, Ask me anything!
I work with professional fireworks and done so for a while now, in light of being 4th of July, Ask me anything!
Comments: 244 • Responses: 97 • Date: 2013-07-04 20:55:55 UTCsource
DillDeer39 karma2013-07-04 21:07:40 UTC
Here's a picture of one of the shells we have - http://imgur.com/WH9G2Ae
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DillDeer25 karma2013-07-05 02:51:23 UTC
Another shot of tonight's show! http://imgur.com/sCK0SyF
IKOZAE10 karma2013-07-05 04:03:41 UTC
Whats the foil type looking stuff on the mortars for?
DillDeer26 karma2013-07-05 04:33:47 UTC
That's the finale, to keep any hot embers falling on them and igniting them
IKOZAE6 karma2013-07-05 04:50:58 UTC
Wow, never would of thought that is what that was for, but doesn't it get blown off when the mortars shoot through it?
DillDeer8 karma2013-07-05 06:52:44 UTC
zip right through it yup
darkpaladin2 karma2013-07-05 04:12:58 UTC
Waterproofing in case of rain?
IKOZAE3 karma2013-07-05 04:19:49 UTC
then why are the rest not covered?
IPissMayo3 karma2013-07-05 04:41:45 UTC
Ran out of foil.
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 07:16:56 UTC
and so we did... so many times...
NotMathMan82123 karma2013-07-04 21:44:35 UTC
How many people do you work with when setting up a display? And how many fingers do all of you have combined?
DillDeer36 karma2013-07-04 21:45:54 UTC
9 for this one, and all 90 fortunately ;)
NotMathMan82113 karma2013-07-04 21:50:09 UTC
Will you be around tomorrow for a follow up to this question?
Just kidding. I hope your holiday weekend goes off as planned and everyone can still count to ten on Monday.
DillDeer14 karma2013-07-04 22:03:13 UTC
haha thanks! You too!
imaginative240923 karma2013-07-04 20:59:47 UTC
How much money is spent on fireworks ( on a single celebration ) on 4th of July?
DillDeer34 karma2013-07-04 21:02:27 UTC
$20,000 worth of fireworks in tonight's show
iBeyy11 karma2013-07-04 21:11:22 UTC
only? surely thats only cost price, and not sales price. Or material only, not including paying for fire safety, technicians and set up personnel
DillDeer33 karma2013-07-04 21:20:55 UTC
Oh yes, just shells and cakes alone are $20,000 sorry bout that, total price of show? A hell of a lot more than that
DillDeer12 karma2013-07-04 21:03:03 UTC
That's the price of tonight's show we're doing tonight anyways
OblivionCreator19 karma2013-07-04 21:06:27 UTC
Do children often wander into your store and try to buy fireworks?
What's your funniest child trying to buy fireworks story?
Edit: aaaaaaand OP doesn't work in a store...
DillDeer24 karma2013-07-04 21:11:21 UTC
I don't work in the store myself, What we do is there's a company (Fireworks America) that we order shells from and the company give the shells to us so we go out and set them up and shoot them off :)
However that'd be a funny story haha
OblivionCreator12 karma2013-07-04 21:12:43 UTC
What's the worst "display gone wrong" you've had?
and what's your best display yet?
DillDeer26 karma2013-07-04 21:22:12 UTC
Worst - Last night we had a hand lit show and one of the shells detonated in the mortar and it blew up like 2 feet from him, luckily he wasn't hurt too bad
(Hand lit shows you sit in rows of nortars and the fuses are practically instant so you crawl from one to another)
Best - Ones that don't go wrong ;) Really cause watching the show literally underneath it is awesome
akidnamedluke7 karma2013-07-05 05:44:02 UTC
Hand lighting shows is a really fun experience and a huge rush.
DillDeer8 karma2013-07-05 06:55:53 UTC
akidnamedluke2 karma2013-07-05 08:35:05 UTC
A lot of old school guys prefer to hit right at the beginning edge of the paper to get a instant ignition.
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 13:56:14 UTC
I do that! :D
PaperBeatsScissor1 karma2013-07-06 01:19:23 UTC
Do you have an underneath picture you can show?
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-06 05:25:44 UTC
I have a video I'll be uploading soon
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-06 03:05:45 UTC
DillDeer8 karma2013-07-04 22:06:22 UTC
That's right, I work in the hot 108° weather from 5am to 1am :D... :'(
Earl_McDabbin18 karma2013-07-04 21:06:03 UTC
do you guys have consistent work the other 364 days of the year?
DillDeer38 karma2013-07-04 21:07:19 UTC
Yes we do, High school graduations, New Years, weddings, all sorts of stuff
7usernames15 karma2013-07-05 06:33:56 UTC
Holy shit...Where are these weddings with fucking fireworks??
DillDeer9 karma2013-07-05 06:57:15 UTC
Honestly I don't know either haha
insultbyjoshua15 karma2013-07-04 21:48:41 UTC
whats a legal firework you think should be illegal ?
DillDeer39 karma2013-07-04 21:52:23 UTC
Roman Candles >:)
j93329116 karma2013-07-05 00:41:52 UTC
What illegal firework do you think should be legal?(If any)
DillDeer41 karma2013-07-05 01:57:01 UTC
Roman Candles >:)
CaptainDefect6 karma2013-07-05 05:54:16 UTC
Not bottlerockets? :( They outlawed them here and I miss them.
DillDeer4 karma2013-07-05 06:56:30 UTC
never used them :'(
CaptainDefect3 karma2013-07-05 07:26:38 UTC
Aw man they're my favorites. Like tiny little mortars and whistled as they flew.
DillDeer6 karma2013-07-05 07:36:25 UTC
My mom used to tell me about bottle rocket fights when she lived in Missouri.. lucky :/
Kolazeni3 karma2013-07-05 07:32:46 UTC
You work in pyrotechnics and have never seen/used bottle rockets, even in your personal time? Seriously?
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 07:37:29 UTC
they're illegal in California man :/ it's a shame
wildwobby14 karma2013-07-04 20:58:14 UTC
Shouldn't you be a little busy today?
DillDeer25 karma2013-07-04 20:59:02 UTC
We just finished setting up actually, been working since 5am
notsokoolaid13 karma2013-07-04 23:49:28 UTC
What is that firework that just makes a huge boom? The one with no light, those are my favorite!
DillDeer23 karma2013-07-05 01:57:54 UTC
I think you're talking about Titanium Salutes:) Essentially, It's just a big concussion grenade! :D
akidnamedluke6 karma2013-07-05 05:47:22 UTC
It has to be the dark salutes though. The ones with out the tails.
DillDeer5 karma2013-07-05 07:18:29 UTC
The titanium salutes, at least the ones we use, don't have tails either... But Dark Salutes sound awesome :o
akidnamedluke5 karma2013-07-05 08:23:32 UTC
On big shoots we put a lift charge on some diesel fuel to get a big flame ball.
DillDeer5 karma2013-07-05 13:56:25 UTC
iBeyy9 karma2013-07-04 21:09:22 UTC
how do you create words with fireworks? this puzzles the beejesus outta me
DillDeer15 karma2013-07-04 21:14:44 UTC
Whoever makes the shell arranges pellets in a "U" shape or "S" or "A" and pack powder in the negative space so when it detonates, the spread out in that way l, that's my best guess, sorry I couldn't answer that one well :/
madmanmunt7 karma2013-07-04 22:28:33 UTC
An AMA, nice! I've seen a lot of NatGeo-type shows, so I have a good idea how things work in a general sense. What I'd be curious to know about is the show production culture. Are the guys you work with trying to develop skills, or is this just a job they/you happened into. Is there a certification process? Are you considered an apprentice? Do you want to get into the manufacture side of shell production?
DillDeer8 karma2013-07-05 01:56:12 UTC
I was more of handed the job, I knew the guys who did the show well enough he just offered a job. There is a certification process as far as bidding for the job, a pyrotechnic license I believe, we just work under the bosses license. There are guys here who want to get there licenses themselves but this might be my last year do it
garuda_guy6 karma2013-07-05 02:30:07 UTC
Do you have all ten of your fingers?
DillDeer11 karma2013-07-05 02:34:46 UTC
1..2..6.. Yup! :D
PuDDiNNz6 karma2013-07-04 22:19:42 UTC
DillDeer21 karma2013-07-04 22:21:24 UTC
Anything that requires being fired from a mortar should be illegal, sucks yes I l know.. but people without a license or proper training can be seriously hurt
Senor_Wilson7 karma2013-07-05 07:07:40 UTC
But shouldn't we give them the freedom to hurt themselves?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:17:26 UTC
You do have a point...
bdcp6 karma2013-07-04 21:12:57 UTC
Whats the worst accident youve seen?
DillDeer11 karma2013-07-04 21:19:04 UTC
Last night we had a hand lit show and one of the shells detonated in the mortar and it blew up like 2 feet from him, luckily he wasn't hurt too bad
kingdadrock4 karma2013-07-04 21:39:02 UTC
Are they set up on land or a barge over water?
DillDeer7 karma2013-07-04 21:40:44 UTC
Some shows are different but I'm sure there are shows shot off of barges, All shows I've done has been on land
Senor_Wilson4 karma2013-07-05 07:09:54 UTC
San Francisco shoots their fireworks off a barge.
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 07:11:19 UTC
Yes I said I'm sure there are some :)
kingdadrock4 karma2013-07-04 21:36:03 UTC
What part of the country are you in?
DillDeer11 karma2013-07-04 21:36:44 UTC
jairtzinio3 karma2013-07-05 00:19:25 UTC
DillDeer7 karma2013-07-05 01:57:14 UTC
bdcp4 karma2013-07-04 21:12:24 UTC
What sort of system does a show use?
DillDeer11 karma2013-07-04 21:16:53 UTC
There's different types, last night we had a hand lit show, but bigger more important ways we do it electronically where we wire each shell individually.. it's really a bitch to do
Funbanana773 karma2013-07-04 23:25:33 UTC
Do you think that fireworks are dangerous or the person behind them?
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 01:59:22 UTC
Both, some shells could be defective while the majority of time its the person behind them
Slazman9993 karma2013-07-05 03:35:11 UTC
How many fingers do you have? (This includes thumbs)
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 03:39:16 UTC
wyattrulesherp3 karma2013-07-04 23:13:58 UTC
Do you have whistling bungholes?
DillDeer12 karma2013-07-05 02:00:00 UTC
And Whisker do's and Whisker don'ts too
TheSlowbomb3 karma2013-07-04 21:48:07 UTC
How does someone get a job like this?
DillDeer6 karma2013-07-04 21:52:01 UTC
Getting a pyrotechnics license or something I just got picked up by the boss cause I knew him well enough :D
Oaker223 karma2013-07-04 22:25:33 UTC
What is the biggest change in the firework business since you started and now?
DillDeer5 karma2013-07-04 22:29:51 UTC
Safety-ness has improved
arose0203 karma2013-07-04 22:25:29 UTC
How dangerous is your job ranging from completely safe, to I could die any minute
DillDeer7 karma2013-07-04 22:29:28 UTC
Hmmm... It is relatively dangerous, you are handling live explosives and one accident could be fatal, lasy night we had a hand lit show and a shell detonated within two feet of a guy, thank god he was safe. He was in shock for the rest of the night
Redfangler3 karma2013-07-04 22:17:01 UTC
Are your fireworks lit by a remote control servo or are they manually lit?
DillDeer4 karma2013-07-04 22:19:18 UTC
Tonight's show electronic but last night we did a hand lit
pyro_kid3 karma2013-07-04 23:40:58 UTC
Fellow Pyro here, just came by to say have a good show!
DillDeer4 karma2013-07-05 01:58:19 UTC
mattsidesinger3 karma2013-07-05 00:24:44 UTC
In your expert opinion, what happened here? What do you do in your job to prevent this? http://youtu.be/ndVhgq1yHdA
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:22:01 UTC
I think I heard something about a faulty activation board
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 03:55:37 UTC
Hey guys, keep on asking question and I'll follow up tomorrow, Gotta get working! Enjoy the show whoever might be here!
The_Greetest2 karma2013-07-04 22:10:54 UTC
DillDeer4 karma2013-07-04 22:14:17 UTC
Fresno/Clovis area, Yeah honestly I hate it, I'm taking next year off
lpca3 karma2013-07-04 23:33:53 UTC
I used to live in Madera, but relocated 7 years ago - are you working the Grizzlies game?
DillDeer5 karma2013-07-05 01:58:39 UTC
No sir, the Buchanan show at Freedom Fest
Puckbandit354 karma2013-07-05 05:45:28 UTC
Was there, good show!
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 06:56:09 UTC
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-04 22:14:42 UTC
Also, no not PS
jjjaaammm2 karma2013-07-05 06:16:26 UTC
Firework factory blew up a mile from my house in the early 80's. two men died, they are the reason for a lot of the safety measures today, like static electricity discrarge plates and such.
What safety precautions have you seen guys skip? And were you ever afraid for your safety as a result of a coworkers actions?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:24:44 UTC
Our boss is pretty anal about safety, as a result no one I've seen has been injured from one of our workers, just defective shells
kingdadrock2 karma2013-07-04 21:24:16 UTC
I had the oppurturtuty to do tbis a few times. Do hou use flares or or electronics to set them off with?
DillDeer8 karma2013-07-04 21:25:32 UTC
Some shows we use flares, others we do it electronically
kingdadrock6 karma2013-07-04 21:28:24 UTC
Which do you prefer? All the crazy guys I worked with loved the flares.
DillDeer16 karma2013-07-04 21:31:46 UTC
I must say I like flares too haha
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-05 07:26:39 UTC
Hey everybody! I'm off to bed, tomorrow some time I'll upload the video of tonight's show!
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-05 02:39:49 UTC
Here's Tonight's Show! Buchanan Highschool Freedom Fest
ValiantViet2 karma2013-07-05 03:29:38 UTC
What's your favorite part about your job?
And what's your favorite shell/mortar to fire off?
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 03:38:02 UTC
My favorite shell is called a titan salute, it's a giant concussion grenade :D
Mattsterman2 karma2013-07-04 21:29:01 UTC
Shouldn't you be busy?
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-04 21:32:17 UTC
If you read down I bit I said We're finished setting up, I've been working since 5am
RedSerious2 karma2013-07-04 21:47:25 UTC
I would like to be in this market too.
But in my country there might be some limitations (since we don't have the freedom to handle explosives like in the USA).
But I am really interested in doing something related (I'm an automation engineer).
Feel free to answer any of my questions. Thanks for the AMA!
DillDeer8 karma2013-07-04 22:02:48 UTC
Question 1 - We use company mortars as the gun, and the shell has a fuse on it to light it, now in the sense of triggers we have electronic matches that we can use and push a button like that
2 - We control sequences by splicing wires together, also timing detonations to the music or what have you. You can order control boards off the internet
3 - Many different ways, hand lighting, (Yelling at each other slow down or speed up) electronic (choreograph with music, write down times to detonate shells so it syncs with music) , and you can also use software to do everything completely automatic
4 - Handle them gentley, they are live explosives, created friction or static electricity can accidentally set them off. When loading shells into the mortar, load them right side up, never look over it, safety glasses, pants, etc etc. Just common sense
mordacthedenier2 karma2013-07-04 23:49:14 UTC
Don't forget a hardhat either.
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 01:58:07 UTC
I have it right next to me :)
MorphineBear2 karma2013-07-05 05:28:00 UTC
Are there any fireworks that closely act like a Komodo 3000 from Malcolm in the Middle? Reference.
Obviously it's unrealistic, but what's the closest thing you've seen that could light up the sky, so to speak.
If yes, have you ever used one?
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-05 07:15:15 UTC
There's nothing that I know of that can do that haha, but a bunch of shells in the air over and over (like the finale) definitely lights up the ground so you can see everything
ferrric2 karma2013-07-05 02:57:51 UTC
How do you line up finales? Are all the shells pre setup and just lit off quickly, or is there a lot of manual work involved constantly setting up new shells to light?
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 03:07:14 UTC
The finales are pre chained, all of the fuses are linked together. Then you just drop the shells in the mortars like a normal shell :)
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 03:09:34 UTC
Oh and you set up every shell and mortar before the show, it's impossible to reset shells that quickly, you have to drop it, tap it to the bottom, and light the fuse, that process can take anywhere from 5-8 minutes depending on if you have to wire the shell for electronic shows or not
Buoyage2 karma2013-07-05 02:22:59 UTC
Do you know of any former military EOD guys working in the field?
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-05 02:34:30 UTC
Nope, but that'd be sweet!
PurpleMTL1 karma2013-07-05 06:39:24 UTC
What gives you the right?
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-05 07:25:31 UTC
to put up a fence that keeps me out, or mother nature in.. If God was here he'd tell it to your face, man you're some kinda sinner
Chairthrowaway1 karma2013-07-05 07:11:57 UTC
That had to be traumatic! Thank you for a quick reply!
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:25:50 UTC
Pirate_IRL1 karma2013-07-05 04:26:15 UTC
what education is required to become a professional?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 04:35:02 UTC
Probably none, I'm sure there's a few courses and some tests involved with
BreakingNoose1 karma2013-07-05 07:22:50 UTC
What kind of debris rains back down after a firework explodes? How far can it travel?
DillDeer2 karma2013-07-05 07:34:20 UTC
Usually just hot paper, they can travel as far as the wind will take them, also small cardboard pieces or pellets can too, just not as far
MongoLumberjack1 karma2013-07-05 07:27:01 UTC
I wish I got to play with the big you alike you, but alas I just worked at a consumer fireworks booth for a week instead.
My question is, do you know the name of/have you had experience with the firework that light up the sky? Like the kind in Disneyland's nightly show.
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:32:38 UTC
I shoot shows like Disneyland yes :) Not nearly as big though
MongoLumberjack1 karma2013-07-05 07:35:20 UTC
Do you know the name of that firework they have probably 2 dozen of that just lights up the sky? It's a huge streak of intense light and then it's gets insanely bright at its peak.
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:39:36 UTC
Unfortunately not, sorry man :/
braindamnager1 karma2013-07-05 06:54:47 UTC
/u/DilDeer, maybe you can explain what went wrong at the fireworks display I was at tonight. The man who hosted the party spent 200k on a fireworks show, and was shooting very very large fireworks off a barge on the lake. During she show, one of the bigger fireworks went really high but didn't go off, but instead fell back down into the very crowded yard and exploded. What in the fuck happened, and who's responsible?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 06:59:54 UTC
I think I heard about that! The boss man was talking about it... He said a shell may have detonated in the mortar and blew some other mortars over, hot ember ms got inside and caused a chain reaction and shit went down
braindamnager1 karma2013-07-05 07:17:05 UTC
Holy shit, what state? That would be wa
braindamnager1 karma2013-07-05 07:18:58 UTC
Wild* If he was talking about this party. iPhone app won't let edit last message either.
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:35:43 UTC
Go look it up on youtube, just type in firework disaster and filter it to "uploaded today" I'm sure it will come up, last I checked 20 people were injured
NScorpion1 karma2013-07-05 01:15:37 UTC
Why aren't you out shooting fireworks right now?
DillDeer3 karma2013-07-05 01:56:47 UTC
It's 6:56 in the afternoon, it's still day time
xTinyNoise1 karma2013-07-05 15:19:22 UTC
I've wanted to be a pyrotechnic my whole life how do you get certified is they a degree or something you need?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 17:08:32 UTC
There is certification involved to get your license. I work under the license of my boss but he went for courses offered by the firework company to get certified.
SETH_ANSWORZ1 karma2013-07-05 10:00:21 UTC
If you wanted to, do you have the know-how to make dangerous bombs etc?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 13:55:13 UTC
Yes I do, with over the counter fireworks. Mt friend and I would break open the tubing inside of the fireworks, take all the powder, and pack it nice and tight in a roll of paper.. boom >:)
jenny711 karma2013-07-05 14:09:37 UTC
Wow what a cool job to have. Your lucky I love fireworks
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 14:13:50 UTC
yeah it's pretty cool but honestly the amount of work you do sucks! especially in this heat. I work from 5am-1am back to back on July 3rd and 4th in 110F+ weather :/
helloploxxd1 karma2013-07-05 15:15:59 UTC
Do your ears ring at the end of the night or are you used to the loudness?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 16:41:47 UTC
My ears do hurt a little, some ringing but not much
HoPMiX1 karma2013-07-05 05:08:42 UTC
Have you ever worked thunder over louisville or any of the major international shows? If so how do they compare to your run of the mill small town show on the 4th?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 06:54:04 UTC
Unfortunately we haven't not, sorry :/
78SuperBeetle1 karma2013-07-05 05:23:35 UTC
What is the best firework that the average person can buy?
Also, what kind of fireworks are the most impressive for the least amount of money (Bang for your buck haha)?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:01:04 UTC
Honestly not good ones, now illegally you can buy what we use ;) Don't do it though
akidnamedluke1 karma2013-07-05 09:34:46 UTC
15 years in prison and $100,000 fine I believe.
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 13:55:34 UTC
Something along the lines of that yup
damnitforgotagain1 karma2013-07-05 06:39:33 UTC
Suppose I have a long fuse and a couple jars of powder left over from handloading, how far should I run?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 06:57:54 UTC
hmmm... is the power tightly packed?
damnitforgotagain1 karma2013-07-05 07:33:10 UTC
Lets just say the grains are all poured into a glass jar, for shits and giggles.
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:39:13 UTC
I'd feel safe at 300+ feet, whatever you're trying take a video of it ;)
jpwahl431 karma2013-07-05 06:52:39 UTC
how long does a single firework take to make?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:00:20 UTC
Sorry don't know that one :/ 20-40 mins?
lilxdragon1281 karma2013-07-05 05:06:44 UTC
How much does for each shell that goes up?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 06:53:36 UTC
Not entirely sure but tonight's show, the price for all the shells was around $20,000
Chairthrowaway1 karma2013-07-05 06:59:59 UTC
What was you're biggest "oh shit " moment?
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:02:11 UTC
hahaha Let's see, last night was a hand lit show and one of the shells blew up in the mortar, and one of our guys was literally two feet from it, he didn't get hurt too bad
akidnamedluke1 karma2013-07-05 09:10:28 UTC
low breaks can be pretty scary
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 13:55:55 UTC
Oh yeah, believe me haha
shelbyharper1 karma2013-07-05 07:37:10 UTC
So if you're using electronics to detonate the fireworks, how exactly does that work? Do you just touch a positive and negative cable and it goes boom? Or do you run them all to a control board?
Also, sorry if this is a stupid question.
DillDeer1 karma2013-07-05 07:46:33 UTC
Hey man don't worry :) Each individual shell has a fuse, we take an E-match and connect it to the fuse on the shell, the ematch is connect to a strip and you connect it much like audio speakers, it doesn't matter if it's positive or negative, just as long as they're in each connector. That strip is ran to a control board where you ignite it with a switch there. Hope that cleared it up :)
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