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: 

DillDeer39 karma

Here's a picture of one of the shells we have - http://imgur.com/WH9G2Ae

DillDeer25 karma

Another shot of tonight's show! http://imgur.com/sCK0SyF

IKOZAE10 karma

Whats the foil type looking stuff on the mortars for?

DillDeer26 karma

That's the finale, to keep any hot embers falling on them and igniting them

IKOZAE6 karma

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 karma

zip right through it yup

darkpaladin2 karma

Waterproofing in case of rain?

IKOZAE3 karma

then why are the rest not covered?

IPissMayo3 karma

Ran out of foil.

DillDeer3 karma

and so we did... so many times...

NotMathMan82123 karma

How many people do you work with when setting up a display? And how many fingers do all of you have combined?

DillDeer36 karma

9 for this one, and all 90 fortunately ;)

NotMathMan82113 karma

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 karma

haha thanks! You too!

imaginative240923 karma

How much money is spent on fireworks ( on a single celebration ) on 4th of July?

DillDeer34 karma

$20,000 worth of fireworks in tonight's show

iBeyy11 karma

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 karma

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 karma

That's the price of tonight's show we're doing tonight anyways

OblivionCreator19 karma

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 karma

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 karma

Oh, then

What's the worst "display gone wrong" you've had?

and what's your best display yet?

DillDeer26 karma

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 karma

Hand lighting shows is a really fun experience and a huge rush.

DillDeer8 karma

No doubt!

akidnamedluke2 karma

A lot of old school guys prefer to hit right at the beginning edge of the paper to get a instant ignition.

DillDeer3 karma

I do that! :D

PaperBeatsScissor1 karma

Do you have an underneath picture you can show?

DillDeer2 karma

I have a video I'll be uploading soon

DillDeer2 karma

I have a video I'll be uploading soon

DillDeer8 karma

That's right, I work in the hot 108° weather from 5am to 1am :D... :'(

Earl_McDabbin18 karma

do you guys have consistent work the other 364 days of the year?

DillDeer38 karma

Yes we do, High school graduations, New Years, weddings, all sorts of stuff

7usernames15 karma


Holy shit...Where are these weddings with fucking fireworks??

DillDeer9 karma

Honestly I don't know either haha

insultbyjoshua15 karma

whats a legal firework you think should be illegal ?

DillDeer39 karma

Roman Candles >:)

j93329116 karma

What illegal firework do you think should be legal?(If any)

DillDeer41 karma

Roman Candles >:)

CaptainDefect6 karma

Not bottlerockets? :( They outlawed them here and I miss them.

DillDeer4 karma

never used them :'(

CaptainDefect3 karma

Aw man they're my favorites. Like tiny little mortars and whistled as they flew.

DillDeer6 karma

My mom used to tell me about bottle rocket fights when she lived in Missouri.. lucky :/

Kolazeni3 karma

You work in pyrotechnics and have never seen/used bottle rockets, even in your personal time? Seriously?

DillDeer3 karma

they're illegal in California man :/ it's a shame

wildwobby14 karma

Shouldn't you be a little busy today?

DillDeer25 karma

We just finished setting up actually, been working since 5am

notsokoolaid13 karma

What is that firework that just makes a huge boom? The one with no light, those are my favorite!

DillDeer23 karma

I think you're talking about Titanium Salutes:) Essentially, It's just a big concussion grenade! :D

akidnamedluke6 karma

It has to be the dark salutes though. The ones with out the tails.

DillDeer5 karma

The titanium salutes, at least the ones we use, don't have tails either... But Dark Salutes sound awesome :o

akidnamedluke5 karma

On big shoots we put a lift charge on some diesel fuel to get a big flame ball.

DillDeer5 karma

That's sick!

iBeyy9 karma

how do you create words with fireworks? this puzzles the beejesus outta me

DillDeer15 karma

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 karma

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 karma

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 karma

Do you have all ten of your fingers?

DillDeer11 karma

1..2..6.. Yup! :D

PuDDiNNz6 karma


DillDeer21 karma

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 karma

But shouldn't we give them the freedom to hurt themselves?

DillDeer1 karma

You do have a point...

bdcp6 karma

Whats the worst accident youve seen?

DillDeer11 karma

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)

kingdadrock4 karma

Are they set up on land or a barge over water?

DillDeer7 karma

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 karma

San Francisco shoots their fireworks off a barge.

DillDeer3 karma

Yes I said I'm sure there are some :)

kingdadrock4 karma

What part of the country are you in?

DillDeer11 karma


jairtzinio3 karma

bay area?

DillDeer7 karma

Central California

bdcp4 karma

What sort of system does a show use?

DillDeer11 karma

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 karma

Do you think that fireworks are dangerous or the person behind them?

DillDeer3 karma

Both, some shells could be defective while the majority of time its the person behind them

Slazman9993 karma

How many fingers do you have? (This includes thumbs)

DillDeer3 karma

10 :)

wyattrulesherp3 karma

Do you have whistling bungholes?

DillDeer12 karma

And Whisker do's and Whisker don'ts too

TheSlowbomb3 karma

How does someone get a job like this?

DillDeer6 karma

Getting a pyrotechnics license or something I just got picked up by the boss cause I knew him well enough :D

Oaker223 karma

What is the biggest change in the firework business since you started and now?

DillDeer5 karma

Safety-ness has improved

arose0203 karma

How dangerous is your job ranging from completely safe, to I could die any minute

DillDeer7 karma

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 karma

Are your fireworks lit by a remote control servo or are they manually lit?

DillDeer4 karma

Tonight's show electronic but last night we did a hand lit

pyro_kid3 karma

Fellow Pyro here, just came by to say have a good show!

DillDeer4 karma

Thank you!

mattsidesinger3 karma

In your expert opinion, what happened here? What do you do in your job to prevent this? http://youtu.be/ndVhgq1yHdA

DillDeer1 karma

I think I heard something about a faulty activation board

DillDeer3 karma

Hey guys, keep on asking question and I'll follow up tomorrow, Gotta get working! Enjoy the show whoever might be here!

The_Greetest2 karma


DillDeer4 karma

Fresno/Clovis area, Yeah honestly I hate it, I'm taking next year off

lpca3 karma

I used to live in Madera, but relocated 7 years ago - are you working the Grizzlies game?

DillDeer5 karma

No sir, the Buchanan show at Freedom Fest

Puckbandit354 karma

Was there, good show!

DillDeer1 karma

Thank you!

DillDeer2 karma

Also, no not PS

jjjaaammm2 karma

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 karma

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 karma

I had the oppurturtuty to do tbis a few times. Do hou use flares or or electronics to set them off with?

DillDeer8 karma

Some shows we use flares, others we do it electronically

kingdadrock6 karma

Which do you prefer? All the crazy guys I worked with loved the flares.

DillDeer16 karma

I must say I like flares too haha

DillDeer2 karma

Hey everybody! I'm off to bed, tomorrow some time I'll upload the video of tonight's show!

DillDeer2 karma

Here's Tonight's Show! Buchanan Highschool Freedom Fest

ValiantViet2 karma

What's your favorite part about your job?

And what's your favorite shell/mortar to fire off?

DillDeer3 karma

My favorite shell is called a titan salute, it's a giant concussion grenade :D

Mattsterman2 karma

Shouldn't you be busy?

DillDeer3 karma

If you read down I bit I said We're finished setting up, I've been working since 5am

RedSerious2 karma

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!

  • Did you build your own triggers? (to set on the fireworks and launch them)
  • How do you control the sequence? did you buy a controller or is it a DIY?
  • How do you plan your show? Do you use software, drawings, pictures?
  • Can you tell some safty measures that you take while handling fireworks for this kind of shows? (while buying, storing, transporting, installing and firing)

Thanks again!

DillDeer8 karma

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 karma

Don't forget a hardhat either.

DillDeer3 karma

I have it right next to me :)

MorphineBear2 karma

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 karma

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 karma

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 karma

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 karma

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 karma

Do you know of any former military EOD guys working in the field?

DillDeer2 karma

Nope, but that'd be sweet!

PurpleMTL1 karma

What gives you the right?

DillDeer2 karma

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 karma

That had to be traumatic! Thank you for a quick reply!

DillDeer1 karma

no problem!

Pirate_IRL1 karma

what education is required to become a professional?

DillDeer1 karma

Probably none, I'm sure there's a few courses and some tests involved with

BreakingNoose1 karma

What kind of debris rains back down after a firework explodes? How far can it travel?

DillDeer2 karma

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 karma

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 karma

I shoot shows like Disneyland yes :) Not nearly as big though

MongoLumberjack1 karma

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 karma

Unfortunately not, sorry man :/

braindamnager1 karma

/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 karma

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 karma

Holy shit, what state? That would be wa

braindamnager1 karma

Wild* If he was talking about this party. iPhone app won't let edit last message either.

DillDeer1 karma

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 karma

Why aren't you out shooting fireworks right now?

DillDeer3 karma

It's 6:56 in the afternoon, it's still day time

xTinyNoise1 karma

I've wanted to be a pyrotechnic my whole life how do you get certified is they a degree or something you need?

DillDeer1 karma

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.


If you wanted to, do you have the know-how to make dangerous bombs etc?

DillDeer1 karma

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 karma

Wow what a cool job to have. Your lucky I love fireworks

DillDeer1 karma

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 karma

Do your ears ring at the end of the night or are you used to the loudness?

DillDeer1 karma

My ears do hurt a little, some ringing but not much

HoPMiX1 karma

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 karma

Unfortunately we haven't not, sorry :/

78SuperBeetle1 karma

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 karma

Honestly not good ones, now illegally you can buy what we use ;) Don't do it though

akidnamedluke1 karma

15 years in prison and $100,000 fine I believe.

DillDeer1 karma

Something along the lines of that yup

damnitforgotagain1 karma

Suppose I have a long fuse and a couple jars of powder left over from handloading, how far should I run?

DillDeer1 karma

hmmm... is the power tightly packed?

damnitforgotagain1 karma

Lets just say the grains are all poured into a glass jar, for shits and giggles.

DillDeer1 karma

I'd feel safe at 300+ feet, whatever you're trying take a video of it ;)

jpwahl431 karma

how long does a single firework take to make?

DillDeer1 karma

Sorry don't know that one :/ 20-40 mins?

lilxdragon1281 karma

How much does for each shell that goes up?

DillDeer1 karma

Not entirely sure but tonight's show, the price for all the shells was around $20,000

Chairthrowaway1 karma

What was you're biggest "oh shit " moment?

DillDeer1 karma

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 karma

low breaks can be pretty scary

DillDeer1 karma

Oh yeah, believe me haha

shelbyharper1 karma

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 karma

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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