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N.C. fire marshal wants pyrotechnic regulations

Posted July 6, 2009
Updated July 7, 2009

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— As a memorial is planned for four people killed in a fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin says he is concerned that there are no state laws requiring training or certification for people who set off large-scale firework displays.

"Even the smallest explosive charge can seriously maim and kill,” Goodwin said.

N.C. laws do not require large-scale firework training N.C. laws do not require firework training

The accidental explosion of a truck carrying fireworks on Ocracoke Island over the weekend brought the issue to light for Goodwin. A crew of four men and one woman was on or near the truck when the explosion occurred shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday.

Mark Hill, 21; Terry Holland, 49; Lisa Simmons, 41; and Charles Kirkland Jr., all residents of Wayne County, were killed.

The lone survivor, whose name hasn't been released, had burns on 20 percent of his body and was listed in fair condition Monday at the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

It is still not clear what went wrong as the crew, hired by Melrose South Pyrotechnics, set up to do the town's fireworks. But Goodwin says new state laws could put more pyrotechnic safeguards in place.

"(We need laws) that provide certification and appropriate training for persons who are going to display fireworks and any explosives for that matter,” Goodwin said.

Lawsonville resident Glenn Knox, who has been in the pyrotechnics business for nearly 30 years, also says legislation is desperately needed.

"(I am) absolutely for it. We have been pushing for it for years," said Knox, with Piedmont Pyrotechnics.

Knox says all you need to produce a large-scale fireworks is a permit from area leaders and the OK from a fire marshal where the pyrotechnics will be set off.

He also says purchasing professional-level fireworks requires only that you be over 21 years old and have a clean criminal record.

The pastor of a church where the firework blast victims attended said Holland had experience with pyrotechnic displays, and Simmons' mother said her daughter had passed a federal background check to handle fireworks.

17 Comments

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  • 1234567890 Jul 7, 2009

    tfsparts, well written ; )

  • tfsparts Jul 7, 2009

    The pyrotechnics industry is heavily regulated at the Federal, State, and
    Local levels in the handling, transportation, storage, and use. If you're
    interested in learning more read US Code Title 18, ATF P 5400.7, US DOT CFR
    49, NC General Statutes Chapter 14, NFPA 1124, and your local county
    ordinances. All of these regulate and assign authority over the pyrotechnics
    industry.

    While I don't know the cause the accident, would more regulations or
    statutes have prevented this accident? I doubt it. Due to the nature of pyrotechnics we may never know exactly what happened and instead get a conclusion based on an educated guess. As with everyday life, it may be impossible/impractical to predict, anticipate, and circumvent every possible factor ultimately contributing to an accident.

    (Part 2/2)

  • tfsparts Jul 7, 2009

    Working with pyrotechnics is kind of like a plane flight, thousands of them
    take place without incident but when one accident happens it is horrific. I
    would like to extend my condolences to the families who have lost loved
    ones. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    I am disgusted with how the tragedy is appearing to be portrayed, almost
    sensationalized and the implication of pyrotechnics being unregulated in
    North Carolina. There are training and qualification requirements as well as
    permit requirements to shoot a fireworks display in North Carolina.

    I believe this is becoming a typical over-reaction to a tragic accident. There were 1,433 traffic fatalities in North Carolina last year. That's greater than 358 times more deaths from driving than fireworks. Does that mean we need more driving regulations?

    (Part 1/2)

  • Worland Jul 7, 2009

    Federal law already requires these shows be run by a trained pyrotechnician and obtain a license/permit from the ATF. You're talking about a business where the people are already required to obtain an explosives license from the ATF. The workers must be supervised by a trained pyrotechnician and be over the age of 18 (an apprentice for example). Not to mention the DOT already has a plethera of regulations reguarding transport of fireworks. Anyone who works with HAZMAT knows how big a pain this can be.

    If someone was negligent in following the existing Federal regulations, I fail to see how additional local regs would have avoided this accident.

  • whatelseisnew Jul 7, 2009

    Just another way for the government to snag more money. This is will do nothing to prevent future accidents. Why is the public so easily fooled into believing that "certification" has any meaning. Your licensed doctors kill people each and every day.

  • dhamma Jul 7, 2009

    Maybe I am playing devil's advocate here, but one life lost is one too many. In the end we are really talking about explosives here. While I am not sure on regulation I do think some type of certification process should be required.

  • OLD PIRATE 2 Jul 7, 2009

    What would the temperature have been inside that truck? Regulations are simply to collect fees. Why hasn't the state published some policy on this rather than calling for sweeping regulations?

  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Jul 7, 2009

    i'm all for training, not necessarily regulation.

  • Gork Jul 7, 2009

    Nanny State...

  • raggy116 Jul 7, 2009

    ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh save us from ourselves let ban football and baseball and all other sports if somone gets killed playing them. Better yet less ban living that way no one gets hurt

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