Residents in southern Stafford got a late-night dose of high-powered fireworks on Monday after a computer glitch failed to fire the grand finale portion of the county’s annual fireworks show.
“I do apologize for what happened last night regarding the finale,” Falmouth District Supervisor Meg Bohmke said Tuesday during a Board of Supervisors meeting.
Bohmke said the finale phase of the show at Falmouth’s St. Clair Brooks Park failed to ignite as scheduled around 9:50 p.m. When those rockets eventually flew over the Falmouth skies close to an hour and a half later, most residents who came for the show had already headed home.
“It was very late,” Bohmke said. ”Very late indeed, and I know some people didn’t get the greatest night’s sleep and hopefully we can do better in the future.”
County spokesman Andrew Spence said the county paid Southern Exposure Pyrotechnics of Stafford $24,000 to pull off an 18-minute fireworks display for county residents on July 4 that was scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m.
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Jake Walther, who owns Southern Exposure, said Wednesday he used the same computer software at Brooks Park on Monday he used without incident just two days earlier at Fawn Lake during that community’s Picnic on the Lawn celebration. He said he tried troubleshooting the Brooks Park problem immediately after Monday’s show, then spent the majority of the day Tuesday trying to figure out why the grand finale didn’t go off as planned.
“I cannot discover what happened,” Walther said.
Walther said when his team set up their equipment at Brooks Park, all systems checked out perfectly. He said the system was also checked repeatedly prior to Monday night’s show, including an all-systems check at 9 p.m. and again at 9:20 p.m.
“The computer said everything was ready,” Walther said. “All the continuity checks said it was perfect. I have no explanation why it didn’t work this time.”
When the misfire was confirmed Monday night, Walther and his team had to wait 15 minutes to allow any remaining embers to cool in the area where the fireworks were stored before they could begin a physical investigation of the problem. He said his team used extended mirrors on poles to peer deep into the launching tubes and they noted most of the rockets loaded into the finale rack were indeed never fired, but he said once explosives are loaded, the only safe and secure way to dispose of them is to fire them off into the open air.
“They needed to be shot off,” Walther said. “It created a very dangerous situation for any of my technicians to try to reach and pull one of these things out once it’s all loaded and ready to go.”
As a result, Walther said about 250 rounds were set to manual fire and headed for the skies just after 11 p.m. Monday, rattling the peace—and the windows—of some nearby residents.
“So that’s why we also had to endure the loudness until all the mortar fireworks were shot off,” Bohmke said, whose district includes the park and the homes that surround it.
Walter said he is deeply sorry the mishap disturbed county residents late Monday night, but he said he’s thankful no one was hurt trying to dislodge or dispose of any misfired fireworks at the park.
“I’m apologetic to the entire community,” Walther said.