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S.W. Florida Daily News


Numerous firework safety concerns emerge during Fort Myers Beach 4th of July celebration

Numerous firework safety concerns emerge during Fort Myers Beach 4th of July celebration
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FORT MYES BEACH, Fla. – The company hired to launch fireworks on Fort Myers Beach to celebrate the Fourth of July ran into several safety concerns, according to fire officials.

Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Ronald Martin outlined seven “key issues” with Exposhows Inc., the company putting on the show, in an email.

The most alarming was that a fire inspector caught an error where the crew setting up the display array was “aimed incorrectly” at the beach.

“Thank God the fire department knew about it and went and checked it out,” said Anne Garvin.

Fire Chief Martin said the department’s “Life Safety Specialist quickly identified the error and had the vendor fix the issue.”

“They had everything facing the people and people,” said Kathy Hirtzer.” Hello? Are you really a pyrotechnics company? I mean really?”

According to career pyrotechnic and CEO of Fireworks by Grucci, Phil Grucci, it’s a request that shouldn’t have had to been asked.

“Safety is the first and foremost,” said Grucci, a sixth-generation pyrotechnic. “There’s an industry-standard out there. One of them is not to aim or have an angle of a mortar that’s going to have an aerial shell in it, angled towards the audience.”

That wasn’t the first departments only request of the day. The company didn’t give Fort Myers Beach Fire a heads up on when they were coming to set up, which the fire chief said is mandatory.

The chief also said Exposhows Inc. showed up with expired fire extinguishers and left tubes used to launch fireworks out in the weather overnight. They also didn’t have the right protective barriers to keep themselves safe during the display.

“Wow,” said Hirtzer. “They should get their money back!”

It wasn’t a cheap night. The Town of Fort Myers Beach spent $30,000 in taxpayer dollars to put the show on, according to documents.

Word on the street from Hirtzer is that they didn’t get their money’s worth.

“Half of them didn’t go off,” she said.

There was an issue with the ignition wire that launces the fireworks, said the chief. They corrected the issue, but the chief didn’t elaborate on how it impacted the show.

“Next year, I’d hire a different company,” said Keith Mickelson, a Fort Myers Beach resident. “I’m not giving them a second chance.”

Well, it’s not that easy. The town signed a deal with Exposhows Inc. to put on this show and one on New Year’s Eve.

It’s a deal that piggybacks off of Marco Island’s agreement with the company.

According to a city spokesperson, Exposhows canceled their display with Marco Island on June 26, just eight days before the 4th of July.

“That’s a piss off,” Mickelson said.

Marco Island is working to get a refund from the company.

On Fort Myers Beach, the Town Manager is working with their attorney to see what they can do next.

“Staff is in the process of comparing the issues raised by FMBFCD to the specifications,” Fort Myers Beach Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said. “Then staff will consult with the Town Attorney to obtain guidance if and how to apply any appropriate remedies. We anticipate a rebid to incorporate the FMBFCD criteria as agreement requirements in the future.”

At no point was anyone in danger, said the fire department and town leaders. Fire Chief Martin said if there were any safety questions, the show would not have gone on.

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