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Precision planning goes into pyrotechnic show

Posted: July 3, 2013 7:04 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2013 7:04 p.m.

Pyro Spectacular crew members Jon Pirate, left, and Jordan Ryan walk in front of hundreds of mortars as they unroll the firing cables that will be connected to the firing control board on the roof of the Westfield Valencia Town Center parking garage while preparing for Thursday's fireworks show. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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The fireworks show that will entertain thousands of spectators at the Valencia Town Center tonight will last less than 30 minutes but took days to set up.

Technician Dave Palmer, a licensed operator for Pyro Spectacular for 15 years, and his crew of nine were on top of the parking structure from which the fireworks are launched setting up equipment at 3 a.m. Wednesday.

“Fireworks are unpredictable, but we’ve had no mishaps on this show,” Palmer said. “It’s a blast.”

Working for over five hours early Wednesday, the crew set up the pipes that will house the firework shells and wired each one to the main switchboard.

“After we finish here, we will go sort the fireworks into boxes by rows,” Palmer said. The fireworks are put into the pipes on the day of the show.

Santa Clarita has contracted with Pyro Spectaculars to produce the annual show for nine years.

“The most elaborate show I’ve ever been a part of was the Salt Lake Olympics,” Palmer said.

Before the free show, a fall zone of 280 feet around the garage parking structure will be roped off and water trucks will hose down the surrounding foliage.

“Twenty city staff work the night of the show protecting the fall zone,” said Arts and Events Coordinator David Knutson.

Viewers begin pouring into the area around the mall hours before the show darkens. Many residents have traditions of parking in a certain area of the mall lot and celebrating with friends during the afternoon or early evening.

Others park around the mall, staking out a lawn area in front of a car dealership or a traditional stretch of sidewalk on the roads surrounding the mall.

Once the show begins at 9:15 p.m. Thursday, 2,568 individual fireworks will be launched into the sky above Valencia. The explosives are encased in 2-, 3-, and 4-inch diameter shells, which can be spherical or cylindrical.

“The shell consists of basically four parts,” Palmer said.

“There’s the lift charge, which shoots it up, the time fuse, the burst charge and the designed effect.”

The time fuse allows the explosive to reach a specified altitude before it is detonated, he said. The burst charge lights the design effect, which determines the pattern that viewers will see and its color, he said.

For example, the chemical element lithium burns crimson and barium burns green.

Shapes accompany the words of the music, provided by Pyro Spectacular and broadcast during the show on KHTS-AM 1220.

Palmer stands on the top of the garage and activates the fireworks on the switchboard.

During the 20-minute show he will activate a shell more than 375 times to produce the show that culminates thousands of Santa Clarita Valley residents’ Fourth of July celebrations.

Other pyrotechnic shows are planned Thursday night at Dr. Richard H. Rioux Memorial Park at 26233 Faulkner Drive in Stevenson Ranch and at Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, 32132 Castaic Lake Drive.




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