MYRTLE BEACH — Fireworks arent unusual in Myrtle Beach.
They brighten the sky across the Grand Strand at least once a week throughout the summer, with some winter shows too. And shops sell everything from sparklers to bottle rockets. So when the Fourth of July rolls around, those productions must be even bigger and brighter to capture the attention of thousands in the area.
Anthony Carter, his wife Danette and Steven Valenti run many of the shows in the area including Broadway at the Beach and those following select Myrtle Beach Pelicans games.
During the day, Carter is the fire marshal at Coastal Carolina University. His wife is a teacher and Valenti is a campus police officer.
They lead a team of about 10 who are contracted with East Coast Pyrotechnics out of Catawba, S.C.
The shows around the holiday are at least twice as big, Carter said, which means the shows run about twice as long.
On a typical night, they must arrive about an hour ahead of the show to set up, haul and unpack gear at a launch site set a safe distance from viewers. The Fourth of July displays take a little longer to set up, because more fireworks that must be wired into the central control box.
Most of the fireworks used are made in China and shipped, Carter said. East Coast Pyrotechnics then works with the customers to design the shows and hands off the plans to people like Carter. Leading up to the show, Carter said they get to do a little design work if the customer needs further customization.
Some displays, especially those tied to music, are set up then launched by a computer program, Carter said. That way, the right fireworks shoot off at the right time in the song. For example, he said theres a Brooks & Dunn song used sometimes that shoots red, white and blue fireworks when the words are sung.
The only place locally that Carter hasnt done a show is the Myrtle Beach Speedway, but he said hes working on that. For the holiday, his team will be running shows at Barefoot Landing, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the City of Georgetown, DeBordieu Colony and the Dunes Club.
The fireworks used in these displays are considerably larger than those available for purchase at area shops. Fireworks at the Pelicans games are in shells that are about 2.5 inches in diameter. The shows at places like the 2nd Avenue Pier pack an even bigger punch, with shells measuring 6 inches across.
Carter said 6 inches is the largest size used locally, but the fireworks used by professionals can be anywhere between 2 and 12 inches.
Thats the drill for the professionals, and those are the displays area public safety officials urge visitors and residents to enjoy.
This is the way we can do it controlled environment, said Myrtle Beach Fire Marshal Bruce Arnel.
Its safer than shooting it in your backyard.
The beach or backyard do-it-yourselfers can cause problems for themselves, their neighbors and could even wind up facing legal charges if they dont pay attention to city-limit signs.
Shooting fireworks is illegal in Myrtle Beach, and in some other area municipalities. While they are legal in unincorporated Horry County, home owners associations can vote to bar them in their developments.
Locally, fireworks have had some dangerous consequences.
Fireworks were the cause of a fire that damaged an oceanfront home in Long Bay Estates, just south of Myrtle Beach State Park, at the end of March.
Last year a wildfire in the Carolina Forest area, a part of unincorporated Horry County, was started by fireworks launched July 3. The blaze lasted more than two weeks, destroying more than 1,300 acres.
Preventing such fires is one reason Carter now moonlights as a fireworks guru.
It started when I was a volunteer firefighter, he said. We did standbys and then moved over to shoots.
His day job working in fire safety has helped his team run more shows annually, with about 60 a year. He said reputation counts in the industry. To make the move from emergency standby to firework shooter required special certifications, including a timed test and annual training sessions.
Were professional and our technicians are professional, he said. As a lead technician youre responsible for the safety of the thousands of people watching what you do. We cant just use anybody that says, Hey, I want to learn how to do that.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.