Fireworks vendors nationwide are bracing for a year of low revenues thanks to burn bans blanketing the nation.
In Prairie Village, Kan., Mike Collar is glued to weather reports in hopes that rain may come to the most drought-ridden parts of the country, including Colorado, Utah and Indiana. As president of WinCo Fireworks, one of the country's largest fireworks vendors with distribution centers in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, he is feeling down about this season.
“Around 75 percent of our revenue comes in around the Fourth of July, so burn bans can be pretty devastating,” he says.
WinCo employs 250 people full-time and around 1,500 seasonal employees, many whom set up firework-selling tents in cities big and small. This year, Collar still plans to bring on 1,300 temporary workers, but is focusing most of his selling efforts on places without bans.
“We worry about bans every year and basically bank on them happening somewhere,” he says. “Last year Texas and Louisiana had droughts, so our sales were down in those states. This year, they will probably be up.”
Vendors with multiple locations are somewhat insulated from crippling revenue drops; it’s the micro-outfits in dry locations that can really feel the pinch, says Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade association for the fireworks industry.
She says the industry is closely watching bans in Colorado (at press time, the entire state was under a burn ban), Indiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Utah, Kansas and Wyoming.
Not sure if your area is under a fire ban? Check with your local government office, as laws can change frequently by state and county. If you are in a ban-free area and are planning to support your local fireworks vendor this Fourth, Heckman offers these tips to make sure you, your family and your property are safe.
Use a flat surface. This will ensure your fireworks will not tip over.
Wear safety goggles. They may not be stylish, but the added protection can prevent blindness in people lighting the spark.
Keep pets indoors. Loud noises can scare animals and hurt their ears.
Lay off the sauce. “Make sure you have a sober, responsible adult in charge of firework activities,” Heckman says. “Every year we read about someone consuming too much alcohol and doing something stupid.”
Be careful with sparklers. Do not let young children use them. Instead, stick them in the ground and have an adult light each one while children watch from a distance. Also, make sure not to run with sparklers as they can ignite clothing.
Be patient. Heckman recommends lighting one firework at a time. “If you light too many and something goes wrong, your reaction time can be hindered because you are looking at the other fireworks,” she says.
Use the 30-foot rule. Make sure spectators are at least 30 feet away from any exploding firework.
Keep water handy. Fill a bucket and place it nearby or make sure you have a working garden hose within reach.
How will you celebrate your Fourth of July?