Programmable controller for electric firing.

Programmable controller for electric firing.

Go ahead, feel free to accuse me of collecting too many odd hobbies… But in my defense, it’s pretty fun to (safely) blow things up.

Last weekend, I participated in a training course provided by hometown pyro-gurus, Pyrotecnico of New Castle, PA. They offer this free-of-charge class to aspiring pyrotechnicians to train them on the operation and safety skills needed to handle high-explosives.

Demonstration on indoor pyro effects

Demonstration on indoor pyro effects

After a long morning in the class room (learning mostly the relevant information for the transportation of explosives), we took a few tests and moved on to the hands-on portion of the day.

The controller for the DragonFire

The controller for the DragonFire

The purpose of the class is mostly to educate Pyrotecnico affiliates on the standard safety practices of the company, but it’s also a requirement of the ATF to take a class like this in order to obtain an ATF Federal Explosives license. I’m sure that I ended up on a few government watch-lists after participating in the class anyways, so I’m considering completing the application process. Maybe I’ll be able to use the certification to help organize a fireworks display at some place like Heron, but even if it doesn’t come to fruition, I still learned some valuable safety skills about handling hazardous materials.

The firing console for the electric firing system

The firing console for the electric firing system

The class was very comprehensive. We had an indoor demonstration of some of the stage effects the company practices (cyro, propane pyro, etc.), and I got to see a product I’ve been interested in for a long time, the Prism Colored Flame Units. We also got to see some large-scale propane flame effects and tour the Pyrotecnico warehouse.

Our hand-fire lineup, all shot with hand torches.

Our hand-fire lineup, all shot with hand torches.

We moved outside to get a lesson in firework firing. I participated in both an electrically-fired display and a hand-fired display. Two different strategies for a firework display, the electronic system takes much more setup (using electronic matches and a firing console). But it’s much easier (and safer) to fire electronically. The hand-firing demonstration was more ‘in the trenches’, and requires a lot of discipline to ensure safety. (But it’s a little more thrilling).

My first electric firing rig, all controlled from a distance.

\ My first electric firing rig, all controlled from a distance.

Special thanks to Pyrotecnico for letting me participate in the class. I’m not so sure an engineer from Pittsburgh was their target audience, but they treated me kindly from the beginning. One thing I noticed about the shooters; they all come from different places, but treat each other like family. It’s a blue-collar kind of culture, where hard work and many years are respected. It was a pleasure to participate and learn from these veterans, and I don’t think I’ll ever see a fireworks display the same way again.

Here are some random videos from the day: