(By Kim Ryan) Jennifer Campbell, Fire Official with Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, graciously took time out of her busy schedule this week to sit down with me and discuss how the department prepares for the 4th of July fireworks show and how the department keeps everyone safe.
The 4th of July fireworks show, which will be set to music, begins around 9PM and is set off from the perimeter of the Fort Myers Beach pier near Lynn Hall Park. While the show will last approximately 20 minutes, a great deal of time and effort goes into preparing for that spectacular 20 minute display.
It takes about 10-15 hours to prepare and review the plans. In addition, like many other big events, it requires the coordination of a variety of groups and agencies including the Town of Fort Myers Beach, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. The all meet to iron out plans to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all who attend.
Jennifer explained that a day or so before the show, the fire department inspects the racks which hold the fireworks after being set up by Exposhows, the fireworks vendor. On the day of the event, when the actual fireworks show up, fire dept staff clear the pier and area around it for approximately 20-30 minutes so the fireworks can be transported. During that time an engine is standing by. Fire department staff also monitor that all safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, are in place while they load the fireworks. A shack made of material that doesn’t burn is also brought in to keep people that set off the fireworks safe (the fireworks are set off electronically).
Jennifer says, once everything is set up the department opens the pier to just past the shop. “It stays open until about an hour before the show when we clear out the areas on the beach noted on the map. The safety radius is 370 ft and will include the pier walkway and a small surrounding area so there’s easy and quick access and exit if needed. The area will be barricaded to keep everyone safe. Coast Guard and LCSO will be on the water outside the safety zone.
After the show the vendor and Fire Department inspect the entire area to make sure its all clear. If there are any fireworks that did not go off the Fire Department escorts vendor staff out with the undetonated fireworks to be transported back to the truck.
Jennifer noted that the use of private fireworks are not allowed on the beach nor in the town per town ordinance. She referred to their Facebook page for facts and figures on fireworks safety and the damage to people and property fireworks can cause.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission approximately 15,600 people were treated in ER’s for fireworks related injuries in 2020. Sparklers which burn at 1200 degrees account for a fourth of those. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 19,500 reported fires started by fireworks annually.
Jennifer indicated this year’s show has fireworks in a variety of sizes from 2” to 5” in diameter totaling just over 1,000 and encouraged everyone to attend the public display which is handled by professionals. Stay smart, stay safe.