Fireworks to light up the sky |

Fireworks to light up the sky

Susanne Haala
Susanne Haala / Tahoe Daily TribuneOperator John Dicks holds one of the so-called shells Tuesday at the Tahoe Keys Marina, which will be placed inside the tube.

Powerful soundtracks synchronized with colorful, beautifully shaped designs will light up the sky over Lake Tahoe for the Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

Roman candles and colorful tubes will be towed out on the lake Wednesday morning in preparation for the evening fireworks show, when 5,000 fireworks will be fired into the sky about 1,200 feet off the coast of Edgewood Country Club starting at 9:45 p.m.

Co-operator and pyrotechnician Matthew Gilfillanis will be the one to push the start button.

“I shoot the show,” Gilfillanis said, “I have one other guy who helps me and I will be out on the Fram (the boat) and everything is fired from there.”

The production is based on three barges that were set up by 11 workers Tuesday at the Tahoe Keys Marina. Two of the sets of barges were placed on smaller platforms while the main barge is placed on the boat, called the Fram, where Gilfillanis will stand and push the start button Wednesday night.

All of the mortars are numbered and tightly set up and connected to wires, which will get networked to a computer program.

The heart of the tubes and mortars are the so-called shells that sit inside the tubes and wait to get shot in the air.

“Do you have a match?” operator John Dicks joked. “You have no idea how many times I’ve heard this joke.”

Dicks started working for the company in 1981, when fireworks still got fired and reloaded by hand.

He explained that, in general, nothing really serious can happen if a match falls into one of the tubes because, even if the firework ignites, it will just go up straight in the air. It won’t set the other ones on fire, as many people would think, because everything is controlled by the computer program, which gets its signal from a radio station and listens to a timecode.

“This is the brain of the firework show,” Gilfillanis said as he pointed at a small white box with a variety buttons and numbers, which will run the program for the Fourth of July show.

The soundtrack, script and effects file will choreograph the show, for which Gilfillanis used all his experience and knowledge to set the devices to the music in perfect synchronization regarding time, angle and colors.

A coordinating crew of two people will be on a small boat to circle around the 1,200-foot-wide safety zone for communication and safety on the lake with support of the local fire department, coast guard and sheriff.

“It’s a cooperative effort between federal, state and local authorities,” Gilfillanis said.

Regarding the dryness and the high fire danger these days, Gilfillanis is not too concerned. The National Fire Protection Association previously reported that, on a typical Fourth of July, fireworks cause more fires in the U.S. than all other causes combined.

“It is a high fire danger, especially this year, but we are out on a lake, so we are pretty good,” Gilfillanis said.

The company Pyro Spectaculars Inc. is based in Rialto, Calif., and known worldwide for its works in opening and closing ceremonies at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City.

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