2012-07-05 / Front Page

Fireworks: Then and Now

Be safe this Fourth of July holiday
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER


Levi Milliron and Nicole Fitzpatrick, sales associates with Keystone Fireworks, tidy up their outdoor display Friday afternoon in the Penn’s Village Shopping Center. The fireworks tent offers a variety of dazzling and sparkling items to celebrate Independence Day. Levi Milliron and Nicole Fitzpatrick, sales associates with Keystone Fireworks, tidy up their outdoor display Friday afternoon in the Penn’s Village Shopping Center. The fireworks tent offers a variety of dazzling and sparkling items to celebrate Independence Day. Steeped in tradition, Independence Day for local residents typically includes a picnic, maybe a parade and a salute to the good ’ol red, white and blue. Another item that also typically ranks high on the list during this important national holiday is fireworks.

Fireworks are touted as having originated in China nearly 2,000 years ago. How this sizzling concoction came to be created is still up for debate, however.

Some believe the very first firecrackers were pieces of green bamboo that were thrown into the fire when dry fuel was running short. The chunks of bamboo sizzled and popped, turned black and eventually exploded.

According to Warfordsburgbased fireworks distributor Phantom Fireworks, the most common legend is that fireworks were accidentally discovered by a Chinese cook going about daily tasks in a field kitchen. Common substances in those days, charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter, were mixed and burned and when enclosed in a bamboo tube, exploded.

The company, a leading distributor of fireworks across the nation, further maintains a Chinese monk named Li Tian from the Hunan Province is actually credited with the invention of firecrackers. The Chinese people celebrate this noteworthy invention annually on April 18 by offering sacrifices to the monk. The sound alone is believed to fend off ghosts and evil spirits who ate people as well as crops, the Chinese people believe.

Years later, Marco Polo would transport Chinese “gunpowder” back to Europe in the 13th century where it was used for military purposes ranging from cannons and rockets to guns. Italians would establish themselves as the first people to use black gunpowder in the manufacturing of fireworks.

Fast forward to the 1600s, history indicates settlers began bringing fireworks to the Americas. From the celebration of a special occasion or to ward off Native Americans, fireworks became a hit among the New World settlers.

Of course, as history dictates, the very first Independence Day or July 4 salute was held in 1777, one year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The beautiful fireworks display at that time was crucial in renewing a sense of loyalty, hope and patriotism with citizens of this great nation. Trade relations would be established between the United States and China less than a century later, with Chinese firecrackers becoming a major import.

Today fireworks remain a big part of local Fourth of July celebrations whether on a grand scale or just in a simple backyard setting. From candles and rifles to the ever-popular sparkler, there is literally something for everyone on any budget.

However, as Independence Day approaches, residents are reminded to play it safe during their celebrations. Dry weather, which residents have been experiencing to date, can bring about unforeseen and unexpected complications to a jovial get-together.

Phantom Fireworks suggests residents take precautionary measures each and every time when using fireworks, especially during dry weather.

 Keep a source of water readily available. A connected hose is best, but a fire extinguisher or bucket of water will also work.

 Appoint one adult to serve as fireman to be on the lookout for sparks that might potentially ignite fires. The fireman should immediately douse any areas that catch sparks to avoid fires.

 Wet down an ignition area of at least 30 feet in diameter for ground devices and 100 feet in diameter for aerial devices before lighting any fireworks. In the event sparks reach the ground, the chance of a spark igniting will be minimal.

 Light your fireworks on a paved surface such as concrete or asphalt if available or choose a dirt area without grass or vegetation. Please keep fireworks away from wooded or grassy areas.

 Do not allow minor children to handle or light the products.

 Be aware of wind conditions when you light your fireworks. Refrain from using fireworks when it is windy.

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