2003-06-05 / Community

July 4 mishap last year causes more precautions for Calabasas fireworks

By Michael Picarella
Acorn Staff Writer

By Michael Picarella Acorn Staff Writer

Two pyrotechnic operators were injured last year during the Calabasas Independence Day fireworks display at Calabasas High School. While there was no evidence of negligence, the city has taken additional safety measures for this year’s event, according to city officials.

Last year’s show was cut short when one firework detonated prematurely near the ground and burning particles hit two pyrotechnic operators. One worker sustained a neck injury and the other had burns on his arms and chin. Both men recovered, sources said.

"The incident was ruled by OSHA, the fire department and (others) as an accident," said Calabasas Community Services Special Events Coordinator Aimee Eastman. Pyro Spectaculars, a family-owned company that’s been around for four generations and does more than 450 Fourth of July shows throughout the country each year, presented the fireworks show last year and will do it again this year.

"Our relationship with Pyro Spectaculars has remained the same," Eastman said. "They’re an excellent company to work with."

The accident last year didn’t involve human error, but the city is taking extra precautions anyway.

"We made it an electronic show this year," Eastman said. The shows in the previous years were manually operated, as are many other small shows like those in Calabasas, according to a Pyro Spectaculars spokesperson. Had last year’s fireworks display been electronically controlled, the spokesperson said, the accident wouldn’t have happened because of greater distances between operators and explosives.

"That didn’t mean that what we were doing in the past was considered dangerous in any way, and actually it’s still endorsed by the fire department," Eastman said. "However, it just made everyone feel a little better knowing this was going to be an electronically fired show because it would allow everybody to stay a safer distance away from the rockets."

Eastman added that electronically operated shows enable more aerial bursts. There won’t be any displays at ground level this year, she said.

"Before, we would have somewhat ground and somewhat aerial fireworks," Eastman said. "With the manual fired fireworks, which is what we had before, they would light up a flag or a star at the ground level while they went and loaded the next set of rockets. This way, we can do an entirely aerial show. Everyone will have a great view."

The sixth annual Fourth of July fireworks show sponsored by the city of Calabasas will take place again at Calabasas High School. Gates will open at 5 p.m. Pre-firework entertainment will include live music from Midnight Train, a band that plays tunes from 1960s to contemporary. Mad Chad the Extreme Juggler, a comedian who’s performed on many TV shows, including the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," will also provide entertainment.

"We’ll have a few other surprises lined up," Eastman said.

Fireworks will begin at 9 p.m. and continue for about 30 minutes.

Several roads will be closed to traffic at about 7 p.m. on July 4. Mulholland Highway will be closed between Old Topanga Canyon Road and Declaration Avenue; Old Topanga Canyon Road will also be closed between the high school and Mulholland Highway.

Checkpoints will be set up along three additional streets at 7 p.m. to reduce speeding. Traffic will be restricted to residents with identification, ticket holders to the event and those with a neighborhood pass at the following locations:

1. Corner of Mulholland Drive and Mulholland Highway

2. Corner of Mulholland Drive and Old Topanga Canyon Road

3. Corner of Old Topanga Canyon Road and Blue Bird Drive

Tickets are now on sale for $7 per person at the following locations: Calabasas City Hall, the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center, the Calabasas Chamber of Commerce, and at De Anza and Creekside parks. Children under 2 are admitted free. Tickets cannot be purchased at the event.

For more information, call (818) 880-6461.

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