‘Catastrophic Malfunction' Interrupts La Jolla Fireworks

The public was not in danger, but the five people operating the fireworks were according to the San Diego Fire Marshal

San Diego's fire marshal is asking the state of California to investigate a brand of fireworks after a “catastrophic malfunction” at the La Jolla Cove Fourth of July fireworks Monday. 

The public was not in danger, but the five people operating the fireworks show narrowly avoided injury and the show was stopped several times.

Fireworks shells flew across the ground and missed a pyro-technican by about a foot or so, San Diego Fire Marshal Doug Perry said.

“He felt the wind go by him,” Perry said. "We were very fortunate that people didn’t get hurt.”

A firework, which is linked to several shells that go off in order, malfunctioned in the tube as the second shell shot off several minutes into the show, sending the other shells in the tube horizontal toward the pyrotechnic operators.

“We all ran,” Perry said. “It was very bright, things bouncing all over the place. You knew there was something wrong.”

The malfunctioning shells, which were all the same brand, did have the state's approval. However, Perry said he believes the firework is a bad product and needs to be reevaluated.

“We had a 50 percent fail rate,” Perry said regarding the malfunctioning product. “I’m sure once the state sees what kind of failure rate we had down here and what the potential was for injury and even loss of life, I’m sure they’re going to take a pretty quick move on this one.”

A veteran pyrotechnic operator stopped the show as soon as it was clear something had gone wrong.

The operator had a kill switch to immediately stop the show. After about 20 minutes, the fire marshal decided it was safe for the fireworks to continue.

“I made the decision to let the show go on. We fired off the rest. We had the finale…Everything went fine,” he said. “Everything worked out well. It was just that there was a stop in between.”

Crews checked, inspected and tested equipment five minutes before the show. Everything was done with permits and by code, Perry said.

The issue San Diego will take to the State Fire Marshal is that the cardboard on the bottom of that particular firework may not be strong enough to take the pressure of the lifting shell, making it go horizontal instead of the intended vertical.

The State Fire Marshal’s office approves fireworks for use, and they will decide what happens with the product.

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