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Wyoming Dealing With Fireworks Shortage, Another COVID Side Effect

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A national shortage of fireworks forced Nate McDonald to drive from Cheyenne to Powell this week to buy the explosives.

Not for his own Fourth of July celebration, mind you. He was buying fireworks for his own store, the Wyoming Fireworks Warehouse in Cheyenne.

“We have gone on a 14-hour round trip to grab our last shipment of fireworks for the season, because our main supplier doesn’t think they will have more until way after the Fourth of July, which is kind of pointless,” McDonald told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “It’s been an insane trip. We’ve never had to do anything like this before.”

McDonald’s Fireworks Warehouse is just one fireworks retailer suffering from a shortage of fireworks this year. And as retailers suffer through shortages, so, too, do fireworks enthusiasts.

It’s just one more item on the long list of things that are in short supply this year, joining chicken wings, rental cars and even hay.

Unsurprisingly, it is also another aftereffect of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Around 98% to 99% of consumer fireworks are made in China, but now containers of them are stuck at ports and people can’t get them,” McDonald said. “There aren’t enough people to load them onto railcars. A lot of smaller places aren’t opening this year because they can’t get the product in.”

McDonald has been alerting customers to the shortage, letting them know they need to buy their fireworks sooner rather than later. The closer it gets to the Fourth of July, the likelier it is that fireworks dealers will sell out of their products.

Some products also had to increase in price due the supply chain issues, he added.

According to NBC News, the U.S. imports around 255 million pounds of fireworks annually, but supplies were expected to be down by about 30% this year.

McDonald said 2020 was a phenomenal year for sales, and he was hoping the Fireworks Warehouse would continue that success into this year. He added that it has been a similar situation for other fireworks stores in Cheyenne.

“People are still buying as much as they can, but now it’s just a matter of who’s got what,” he said. “It’s a crazy season. A lot of people think this ‘shortage’ is a gimmick to get people in the store, but it’s 100% true.”

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Fireworks stands sell bigger bangs, but safety education is key to enjoying holiday

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Wyoming Fireworks
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is big sky country, and there are few things its residents enjoy more than lighting that sky on fire in celebration of Independence Day.

From the whiz-pop of bottle rockets to the glorious starbursts of artillery shells, fireworks are a time-honored tradition in the Cowboy State for the young and old alike.

“The kids love the swords, sparklers and snappers,” said Ben Laws, a manager at Pyro City, which has locations in Cheyenne and Evanston. “And the dad’s are definitely are looking for those artillery shells. Everything is selling.”

Laws said rather than seeing one brand outsell another this year, he noticed customers were changing the types of fireworks they buy.

“A lot of people want to move over to the ‘cake’ items, which allow you to light one fuse, and a whole barrage goes off,” he said.

Over at Fireworks Outlet, which has locations in Laramie, Cheyenne, Buford, Gillette, Rock Springs and Glenrock, General Manager Skyler Krehbiel said kids are purchasing more multi-purpose novelty items.

“The old cardboard tanks are now plastic, and kids are buying up anything that can be used as a toy after,” Krehbiel said. “Backpacks are a big one this year.”

With options for blue trim or pink trim, the backpacks come stocked with smoke balls, snakes, ground boomers, waterproof firecrackers and other assorted items for children around the ages of 10 to 12, he said.

“We’re also selling a lot of kids’ packets for younger kids with snappers, a couple smoke grenades and party poppers,” Krehbiel added. “It definitely saves money buying this in a package, rather than grabbing the items individually.”

The older crowd, on the other hand, are shopping for items with a little more oomph than a pack of snappers.

“For adults, we have our brand new 5-inch cannon shells, which are 1-and-three-quarter inches in diameter and 5 inches long. You can fit larger stars in the longer shells, and people are really looking for the biggest stars they can get.”

Safety

“Don’t blow your hand off, kid” may not be as iconic a warning as “A Christmas Story’s” “You’ll shoot your eye out,” but it’s likely repeated by parents in Wyoming as often each year — if not more often.

As sound as the advice is, it does little to educate children or adults as to the best method of keeping all their digits intact. And education could be the key ingredient to reducing fireworks mishaps, Krehbiel said.

“When you go out to the shooting range, you have an instructor teaching you the proper way to handle a firearm, and in some ways, I wish fireworks were the same,” he explained. “When everyone walks in my stores, I make sure to provide them as much education as I can.”

Krehbiel said he fields a lot of questions like “are Roman Candles the ones you hold in your hand?”

“You don’t ever want to hold fireworks in your hand,” he said. “Roman Candles are designed to shoot straight into the air and should be positioned to do so from the ground.”

People shouldn’t mix alcohol use and fireworks, Krehbiel added. Read and follow the instructions on the package and spend time teaching children safe practices, he said. At Pyro City, Laws said fireworks enthusiasts should keep water nearby.

“People need to have buckets of water or a garden hose nearby,” he said. “A big thing is kids need adult supervision when using fireworks — that’s one I tell people all the time.” 

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 13,000 people are treated annually for fireworks-related burns, while fires resulting from fireworks cause more than $20 million in direct property damage each year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Fire Administration advise attending professional fireworks displays rather than lighting fireworks personally.

If people plan to shoot off their own fireworks in the Cheyenne area, Laws said Pyro City partnered with Phantom Fireworks and USA Fireworks to provide a free and safe launchpad at 2275 W. College Dr.

Only fireworks purchased at one of the three fireworks chains are permitted at the site, which is open 8 p.m. to midnight Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and first responders will be on site to deal with any mishaps, he said.

Fireworks regulations vary across the state, so check with the local fire district before lighting off your own.

For more information about fireworks safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association website.

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