San Francisco

Fireworks Preparations Get Technical in the Bay Area

The Bay Area geared up for its annual Independence Day celebrations on Sunday, leaving cities across the region teeming with fireworks, festivities and police officers on high alert.

In San Francisco, professional pyrotechnics companies were preparing for Sunday’s display by setting up along the pier.

Jeff Thomas, a pyro show producer for Pyro Spectaculars, told NBC Bay Area that his team planned to have 10,000 devices go off in a span of 23 minutes, with the help of specially designed computer programs. On Saturday, the crew was busy setting up the hardware, tubes and launching devices.

Although fireworks displays have been an Independence Day staple long before computers, Thomas said technological advancements have become integral to the design of some modern shows. 

“We take a computer program, and we design the show,” he explained. “We have a soundtrack and music, we listen to music and decide the different types of shells that go with that type of music. It’s kind of technical, but that’s how it all takes place.”

He added that Pyro Spectaculars recently unveiled an app that allows people to keep up with the displays even if they can’t attend the shows in person.

In the East Bay, Richmond was one of the cities celebrating Independence Day early, with music, fun and a fireworks display on Sunday.

Crowds gathered early at Marina Bay Park, despite the fog.

"It's still gorgeous," said Sana Webb, who brought her grandsons to see the fireworks. "Just a little bit of fog, but theyre still gorgeous."

Earlier, at the nearby Craneway Pavilion, the Oakland Symphony performed, and then those who enjoyed the music got a great encore with the fireworks.

For many residents of the South Bay, it wasn't the tech-heavy, elaborate shows that caused the most excitement. 

In Gilroy, where “safe and sane” fireworks can still be sold and used legally, residents were gearing up by purchasing sparklers, dazzlers and other decidedly low-tech devices. Unlike traditional fireworks, those labeled "safe and sane" lack aerial effects and do not explode.

With proceeds going toward local nonprofits, 16 fireworks stands prepared to offload supplies to happy customers. Sellers warned that all fireworks must be used or disposed of by 12 a.m. Tuesday, when the dazzlers and sparklers and other fireworks go back to being illegal.

Gilroy’s leniency toward Fourth of July fireworks has puzzled some nearby counties. Officials explained the reason for their lawful use to the Gilroy Dispatch, suggesting that Gilroy may have an easier time with regulation.

“Historically, all other cities in Santa Clara County found it easier to ban all fireworks than try to regulate the use of ‘safe and sane’ fireworks,” Gilroy Fire Marshal Jackie Bretschneider told the Dispatch. He added that 20 extra patrol officers would be working should an accident or emergency arise.

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