Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2003

Crew’s work goes up in smoke

July 10, 2003

Standing near pounds and pounds of volatile powder -- lighting fuses and then bolting for cover -- handling enough explosives to shake the ground.

Sounds scary, right?

While most would choose to spend their Fourth of July at barbecues or backyard parties, four area residents would rather put life and limb on the line and serve as the pyrotechnicians for the Basehor Fourth of July celebration.

Those behind lighting the fuses along with the Basehor sky on America's birthday were Danny and Chris Dearinger, John Matthews, Michael Fowler and Mike "Mad Dog" McDowell.

Essentially the same crew has worked the celebration for the past 15 years. The Basehor display is widely regarded as one of the best in Leavenworth County.

This year, though, the crew raised the lofty bar they had set in years past, said Chuck Wilderson, chairman of Basehor PRIDE, the organization coordinating the city's celebration.

"I think everyone agrees it was the best we've ever had," Wilderson said. "It lasted about an hour. It's really the same crew and they deserve a lot of credit. It's a risky business and there's some danger involved there, too."

After bombarding the city with 50 minutes of high-octane fireworks, the crew shot off their grand finale: the words USA, a tank shooting missles and an American flag and Statue of Liberty

"It was really a grand, grand finale," Wilderson said.

The crew lays the groundwork for the display in April, when they order the fireworks and secure a mandatory fireworks license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Activities remain mostly dormant until the Fourth of July, when things start getting busy.

Below is a timeline of the preparation the crew undertook before and after the display on July 4, according to chief pyrotechnician Danny Dearinger.

7:30 a.m. -- The four-man crew convenes at the high school and begins setting 100 various tubes, which will fire 350 shells later that evening. Tubes for the ground displays are also set.

3 p.m. -- The pyros begin unwrapping each of the shells and make final preparations for the ground displays and grand finale.

7 p.m.-- The crew gathers for what's affectionately called "The Last Meal," an assortment of barbecue and side dishes. First-year crew member Michael Fowler, "the new guy," had to provide this year's supper.

8:45 p.m. -- A final walk-through and check of the fireworks and equipment. Once the walk-through is completed, the crew waits anxiously for the sky to turn dark.

"Everybody's counting on it and you want everything to go right," Danny Dearinger said.

9:45 p.m. -- Fireworks

The next day, the crew gathers at the high school and begins checking for duds, or shells that failed to go off. Clean-up of the tubes, empty shells and other debris also takes place.

The crew spends four to five hours post-July 4 cleaning up the high school grounds, another Fourth of July in the books.

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