Pyro crew readies mortars for 4th

Instead of baseball bats and mitts, Brock Bowen of Dragonfire Pyrotechnics and his team took to the baseball diamond at Vidinha Stadium yesterday armed with pliers, power drills and hammers to prepare for tonight’s Kaua‘i Hospice 19th Annual Concert in the Sky.

“This will be better than last year,” Bowen said. “Nothing but the finest.”

In a rather intricate setup of launcher tubes, shells and wire, more than 950 fireworks will be released in 18 minutes.

For the finale, Bowen’s baby, fireworks will be released five, 10 and 15 at a time.

In each set of launchers, black tubes will be home to shells of different sizes. At the bottom of each shell is a small bag of gunpowder which is attached to a wire that will ignite the lift charge. Once lit, the shell will launch anywhere from 100 to 500 feet in the air.

The fireworks will also be choreographed to music, set to burst to crescendos.

Bowen and his California-based team of Eric Zeps, Randy Price and Larry Stanfill will all be at home plate watching all their hard work go up in smoke.

Everyone, that is, except Price.

“I don’t usually look at the show,” Price said. “I’m busy throwing the switches.”

Price, who has been working with the team for six years, will be in charge of igniting each and every firework in the show.

And each and every one of those fireworks are documented in Bowen’s trusty binder.

Bowen, a retired fire chief from California, has the entire show mapped out to the minutest detail. The type, description, color, diameter and even the angle the firework will launch into the air is listed, along with maps showing the placement of each launcher and wire module.

Bowen made the transition from fighting fires to starting them (safely) and has been coordinating fireworks shows for more than 20 years.

But out of the group, Stanfill has been in the pyro business the longest — 39 years.

“I started off as a kid making homemade fireworks,” Stanfill said. “In college I discovered people who were licensed and skilled doing shows.”

Stanfill started learning the trade and has worked doing pyro at indoor concerts and shows.

He later met Zeps, who was involved in outdoor pyro and wanted to learn indoor pyro. Stanfill taught Zeps some things and Zeps taught Stanfill some things.

“This is my first outdoor show in a while,” Stanfill said with a smile.

Zeps said the fireworks show wouldn’t be possible without the help of the Kaua‘i Fire Department.

“The firefighters on this island are incredible,” Zeps said. “They have volunteered and helped us build and will help tear down. They are the hardest working crew we have ever had.”

The fire department also provided a flood light so the clean-up after the show won’t be done in complete darkness, Bowen added.

“Everybody knows the ultimate goal and everybody contributes their part,” Bowen said. “It just comes together.”

The fireworks show is set to begin at approximately 8:30 p.m.

For the full event schedule see the Life & style section on B1.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com

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