Here’s How to Put on a Fireworks Show

A home fireworks display is the perfect choice to celebrate the holidays, especially in areas where COVID is still going strong and you don’t necessarily want to party inside. These days, you can buy aerial fireworks, like mortar shells and skyrockets, in many states, and as long as you have enough space, you can safely set them off at home. Here’s what you need to do to host your own fireworks show at home.

Make Plenty of Room

You can’t be lighting off aerial fireworks in a postage stamp suburban yard. You need to be able to get your audience back at a safe distance, at least one and a half times the height of the highest aerial firework you plan to light. So, if your highest firework shoots up to a height of 100 feet before exploding in a shimmering floral display, your audience needs to be at least 150 feet back from the firing line. You’ll need about the same amount of space on the other side of the firing line so that debris can fall safely to the earth and not on your neighbor’s tool shed.

Attach Your Fireworks to a Steady Base

It’s a primary rule of firework safety that you should never hold a firework in your hand while lighting it, but most aerial fireworks shouldn’t just be set on the ground, either. If you’re pressed for time or don’t have access to scrap lumber, you can thrust your aerial fireworks tubes into a bucket of sand, which will hold them safely — however, you should do this right before you set them off, because sand can trap moisture and, while commercial fireworks are wrapped in water-resistant paper, it’s still not a great idea to leave them sitting half-buried in damp sand.

If you have some time and scrap lumber, it’s best to build racks for your fireworks. For skyrockets, mortars, and cakes, you can screw some scrap two-by-four or two-by-six planks to the bottom of a two-by-eight foot length of scrap plywood. Screw your fireworks to the top of the plywood, in firing order. For mortars and barrages, you can build a rack with two-by-fours and zip tie the fireworks in place. You have the option to construct the rack so that it allows for aiming the firework tubes at a 30- or 45-degree angle. Attaching your fireworks to a rack keeps them from falling over and firing directly at you or into the crowd.

Light Fireworks Safely

Fireworks are dangerous, so you should familiarize yourself with firework safety principles before you light the first fuse. Never light fireworks indoors; never point fireworks at a person or at structures or flammable objects; never hold a firework in your hand while lighting it or while it’s burning; and never turn your back on a lit firework. Keep your spectators well away from the firework firing away and make sure there aren’t any overhead obstructions like power lines or trees above the firing area or the debris field.

As the person lighting the fireworks, you need to wear safety equipment. Wear cotton jeans and a long-sleeved cotton shirt — cotton doesn’t melt the way synthetics do, so it’ll offer better protection against sparks and flaming debris. Work boots, gloves, and a head covering are also necessary. A backwards baseball cap can protect your hair and neck from flaming particles. Wear goggles to protect your eyes.

Dazzle Your Crowd

It’s not always easy to create a beautiful tableau in the sky with fireworks. When you’re looking for fireworks on sale, look for items that will make it easy to create elaborate effects. Cakes are a popular choice for creating truly breathtaking effects with minimal effort. Z-cakes are similar, but fire to either side as well as straight up.

Cakes are a great choice for the foundation of your pyrotechnics display, and some dazzling cakes can be great for the finale of your show, too. Tubes, mortars, and shells tend to only fire one shot, so you may want to tie them together on a rack, potentially arranged to fire in different directions. You can also get great effects from firing a number of roman candles at the same time, although you can buy barrage cakes that will get you the same effect. Whatever you do, make sure to save the biggest, best displays for your finale, when you’ll want to fill up the whole sky with effects.

Putting on a fireworks show at home is a fun and memorable way to celebrate any occasion. With the right tools and safety precautions, you can enjoy your home fireworks show just as much as you would any professional display — and in the comfort of your own backyard.