Preparation ensures success of fireworks show

Michelle Balleck

The fireworks show Monday night went off without a hitch, and veteran pyrotechnist Bill Johnston said it was one of the best he has put on in Craig.

He has been an integral part of the performance in his position as Craig Fire/Rescue deputy chief, and it’s something he loves to do.

“When (a firework) comes out of the mortar … it makes your hair shake and your gut shake,” he said. “It’s a rush like you’ve never seen.”

But from ground zero, Johnston said he does not have a very good view.

“Firefighters don’t even get to see the show,” he said.

Firefighter Randy Decker seconded that. “All you see is sparks,” he said.

Had they seen the display, they would have watched about 1,000 shells explode in a variety of colors in the sky south of Moffat County High School.

The 30-minute show featured more than 400 four-, five- and six-inch mortar rounds while the finale included more than 500 two- to three-inch boxed shells. Craig Fire/Rescue Capt. K.C. Hume said he focuses his attention on the finale because that’s what people talk about and remember.

“It’s the culmination of the Fourth of July celebration,” Hume said. “It should be grand and visually stimulating.”

Typically, the firefighters, with the help of Bureau of Land Management personnel, extinguish 10 brush fires each year at the fireworks show. This year, they only dealt with six small spot fires.

Dale Skidmore, BLM zone fire management officer, attributes this to the increased relative humidity. An hour before the show, the index read 26 percent but jumped to 50 percent by the start.

The moisture aided in the reduction of fires. But, just in case, BLM and U.S. Forest Service engines marked the perimeter of the lighting area.

Johnston was thankful there were not more problems Monday. A few years ago, nine firefighters were transported to the hospital when a dud went off long after it was supposed to. Luckily, that did not happen this year.

The show was sponsored by $4,000 stipends from the city of Craig and Moffat County. The firefighters donated their time and equipment, and Johnston was pleased with the results.

“This is one of the better shows I’ve been involved with,” he said.

Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or

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