Friday, November 07, 2008

'Dependence Day?' America at mercy of China for fireworks

With skyrocketing prices, safety hazards, U.S. could see fewer July 4 celebrations
WASHINGTON – With Chinese-made fireworks skyrocketing in price and among many imports being recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, some local communities are curtailing their Independence Day celebrations or limiting them to parades and less noisy and spectacular daytime activities.

The cost of Chinese-made fireworks is up 10 to 12 percent, according to large U.S. distributors like Atlas fireworks, one of the largest in the Northeast. With rising prices come decreased sales.
Atlas owner Stephen Pelkey saw 2006 sales drop 3 percent over the previous year and expects the downturn to continue due mostly to price, but also to concerns about safety.
Last week, as WND reported, the CPSC recalled more Chinese imports, including fireworks products intended for July 4 Independence Day celebrations.
The recalls included more than 13,000 300 Shot Saturn Missiles Battery Fireworks that the CPSC says can travel in unexpected and dangerous directions, posing special hazards to eyes and bystanders. In addition, the CPSC recalled about 4,000 500 gram mine/shell devices considered unstable and posing burn and other injury hazards.
Almost all fireworks purchased in the U.S. for July 4 celebrations are manufactured in China.
(Story continues below)
Portsmouth, N.H., recreation director Rus Wilson said that town's fireworks display this July 4 will likely be smaller than previous years because of the higher prices.
Some see it is ironic that America's "Independence Day" celebrations would be curtailed because of "dependence" on fireworks from China.
"Americans equate the Fourth of July with celebrating and fireworks," says Julie Heckman, executive director of the America Pyrotechnics Association. "Fireworks are, historically, a symbol of American independence."
But they have also been big business.
Americans spent more than $900 million to purchase fireworks in 2006. Most of that amount was by consumers for backyard displays. Heckman estimates Americans will spent about $925 million this year. But they won't get as much for their money.
The growth in recent years is largely due to the fact that fireworks are now legal in 45 states and the District of Columbia.
As Americans think about ways to celebrate Independence Day, they may want to consider that many Chinese fireworks are produced by slave labor – or near slave-labor conditions.
Recently, even the official Chinese media reported 468 slaves freed from deplorable conditions in which dozens died. Some 120 were arrested in a four-day crackdown on slave industries that include the production of fireworks. Many of the slaves were children, some as young as 8, who had been kidnapped. The slaves were near starvation and many had been beaten.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

UK fireworks shortage after Chinese factories shut for Olympics

Bonfire night could go off with a whimper rather than a bang for some as Britain feels the knock-on effect of factories being shut down in China for the Olympics.
More than 80 per cent of fireworks used in celebrations in the UK are imported from China but the volume imported this year is significantly down on last year.
Industry experts estimate the amount of fireworks on sale is 30 per cent down on a normal year which will leave last minute buyers with a much reduced choice.
They blamed the Chinese decision to shut down factories as it tried to reduce the cloud of pollution hanging over Beijing during the Olympic Games.
Robin Treacher, spokesman for Huddersfield-based Standard Fireworks, one of the UK's most popular brands, said it had secured enough fireworks.
But he said: "There is a myth that China used all its fireworks for the Olympics. That's not true. But there is quite a shortage because of restrictions in China. A lot of factories were asked to stop production because of their environmental concerns and there was less shipping.
"The best records we can ascertain are that the shipping was 30 per cent down on what's required for November 5.
"Those leaving it until this weekend will find that they just don't have the variety and choice. People will see a lot less on offer."
Firework production in the UK has virtually disappeared and is now almost completely dependent on China.
Ken Fifield, one of the directors of Phoenix Fireworks in Wrotham, Kent said: "There was actually very little supply coming in for about four months. It's starting to clear now as some of the ports are now shipping, but it's a bit of too little, too late.
"We imported from Europe rather than China this year. We saw this coming last January and filled our stores up then so we're now able to re-sell on to some of the professional firework companies who've been caught short."
Simon Cansick, from Hi-5 Fireworks, based near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, added: "There is a shortage, but we've been dealing direct with the Chinese for quite a while and we made sure our shipment got out.
"However, I know some display companies which if they haven't run out yet, they will be very close."
Only two weeks ago 500 massive fireworks containers packed with fireworks were still sitting in China waiting to be shipped and it is unlikely all of them have arrived in time.
Earlier this year the US experienced a shortage of fireworks for July 4 celebrations. Up to 15 per cent of the fireworks expected from China did not reach the US because of the closure of the Chinese port of Sanshui following a series of warehouse explosions.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aerial Fireworks

An aerial firework is normally formed as a shell that consists of four parts:
Container - Usually pasted paper and string formed into a cylinder
Stars - Spheres, cubes or cylinders of a sparkler-like composition
Bursting charge - Firecracker-like charge at the center of the shell
Fuse - Provides a time delay so the shell explodes at the right altitude
Located just below the shell is a small cylinder that contains the lifting charge.

These are small shells, about the size of a peach, that you can buy at roadside stands in some states. The sphere is the shell, and the small cylinder below is the lifting charge that shoots it out of the launch tube. The green fuse lights the lifting charge, which in turn lights the shell's fuse. Shells that you see at a show are typically the size of a cantaloupe or even larger.

The shell is launched from a mortar. The mortar might be a short, steel pipe with a lifting charge of black powder that explodes in the pipe to launch the shell. When the lifting charge fires to launch the shell, it lights the shell's fuse. The shell's fuse burns while the shell rises to its correct altitude, and then ignites the bursting charge so it explodes.

Simple shells consist of a paper tube filled with stars and black powder. Stars come in all shapes and sizes, but you can imagine a simple star as something like sparkler compound formed into a ball the size of a pea or a dime. The stars are poured into the tube and then surrounded by black powder. When the fuse burns into the shell, it ignites the bursting charge, causing the shell to explode. The explosion ignites the outside of the stars, which begin to burn with bright showers of sparks. Since the explosion throws the stars in all directions, you get the huge sphere of sparkling light that is so familiar at fireworks displays.
Multibreak ShellsMore complicated shells burst in two or three phases. Shells like this are called multibreak shells. They may contain stars of different colors and compositions to create softer or brighter light, more or less sparks, etc. Some shells contain explosives designed to crackle in the sky, or whistles that explode outward with the stars.
Multibreak shells may consist of a shell filled with other shells, or they may have multiple sections without using additional shells. The sections of a multibreak shell are ignited by different fuses. The bursting of one section ignites the next. The shells must be assembled in such a way that each section explodes in sequence to produce a distinct separate effect. The explosives that break the sections apart are called break charges.
Next, we'll look at how fireworks explode in various patterns during a display.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Footprint Fireworks Were Faked into Olympics Opening TV Show

A local Beijing paper has revealed that some of the amazing fireworks in the Olympics opening show were digitally-crafted fakes, inserted into the live TV feed. The Beijing Times quotes the head of visual effects, who says that the 28 giant footprints that stomped through the air above the city, ending at the stadium, were advanced CGI. Though the pyrotechnics really were set off, the airborne camera view that the rest of the world watched was fake. Why go to these lengths? Apparently the Olympic committee decided that to follow the real trail of firework footprints was too dangerous for a helicopter camera. Instead a team spent almost a year crafting the fake segment, paying attention to even get the smog lighting effects correct.

China bans fireworks in clubs after deadly fire

Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:31pm BST
BEIJING (Reuters) - China banned on Tuesday fireworks displays in public entertainment venues, just days after 43 young revellers were killed in a fire at an illegal dance hall.

The fire in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, broke out just before midnight last Saturday at the packed King of the Dancers club, sparked by a fireworks display.

"Any type of fireworks is banned in public entertainment places," State Council's Work Safety Committee said in an announcement, pointing to Saturday's fire as an example.

The announcement also required local governments to improve the safety of such venues and to shut down those that do not meet the stricter standards.

(Reporting by Yu Le; Editing by Kirby Chien and Valerie Lee.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

China faked footprints of fire coverage in Olympics opening ceremony

Was it real? Was it faked? Does it matter? Chinese netizens are debating the computer simulated special effects used for one of high points of the Olympic opening ceremony, the footprints of fire that "stepped" from Tiananmen Square to the Bird's Nest stadium.

Although the procession of fireworks actually took place, it was deemed too difficult and dangerous to film, so billions of viewers were treated instead to a computer-generated film of what it might look like.

Many of those watching were unaware that the effect was expensively "faked" until the Beijing Times reported the following day that only the last of the 29 footprints was actually filmed during the live broadcast.

The newspaper revealed that Crystal Stone - a local production company - had spent almost a year creating the 55-second sequence for the other 28 steps, including efforts to capture the slight shake of a camera on a helicopter and the blurring effect of haze.

Olympic organisers said the decision was necessary for safety reasons, because a helicopter might have been vulnerable to all the fireworks let off that night and it would have been hard to capture the entire route from a single location.

Gao Xiaolong, the head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, told the paper that the final result was not perfect, but achieved the desired effect: "Most of the audience thought it was filmed live - so that was mission accomplished."

On the many online forums about the ceremony and its significance, most Chinese netizens defended the decision to use the simulated sequence. "Although the 3-D production has a different feeling from live filming, we should support the Olympics by taking the authorities at their word and not arguing," said a post by Xin Shuibin on a Baidu discussion site.

Others said it was disappointing but the decision to use computer-generated images was justifiable. "If it had been live, the helicopters would have been in great danger if they flow over the fireworks. They might have crashed," said a commentator who gave the name Waltzer.

Overall, the show was well received, although much of the online opinion on the mainland was more critical than that found among the mainstream media overseas. As has been the case for several of his recent films, the ceremony's director, Zhang Yimou, was lambasted by many for producing a show that was strong on style but weak on content.

Rather than demonstrate real antipathy, however, such criticism may reveal the huge expectations for the landmark event and the high standards to which its director is always held.

Independence Day may go with less of a bang after accident in China

Sparkles, fizzles and bangs at celebrations such as US Independence Day and Guy Fawkes Night are under threat from a spectacular explosion at a fireworks warehouse in China, which has raised concerns over safety and clogged exports.

China supplies three-quarters of the world's fireworks. But a massive blast destroyed 15,000 cartons of pyrotechnics in southern China in February, leaving US vendors struggling to get their hands on sufficient supplies for this year's July 4 celebrations.

Concerned about safety, the Chinese authorities limited the flow of professional-grade fireworks to a mere handful of ports. Compounding the shortage, an embargo on the movement of explosives before the Beijing Olympics has complicated Britain's efforts to stock up for this November's Bonfire Night.

"I do suspect there will be a shortage of display fireworks," said John Woodhead, chairman of the British Fireworks Association. He expects large-scale professional displays to be hit worse than everyday back-garden fireworks.

Difficulties date back to an explosion in the city of Foshan, near Guangzhou, causing a blaze that spread to 20 warehouses and continued for 30 hours in February. More than a thousand local residents had to be evacuated.

The accident, which left four people injured, came at a critical time for US customers who want fireworks for Independence Day. This has prompted the US government to make representations to its Chinese counterparts.

Bob Richard, deputy associate administrator at the US department of transportation, told the New York Times that his department was urging the use of more ports. Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, estimates that Chinese exports of consumer fireworks are down by 35% this year, while the supply of fireworks for professional displays has dropped by 40%. She said the close-knit industry was clubbing together to ensure that everybody has a share of supplies.

Andy Hubble, chairman of the British Pyrotechnists' Association, said the shortfall in the US would "most likely be mirrored" in Britain.

Shipping woes cut down Chinese fireworks exports to the U.S.

LIUYANG, China -- Chen Tiezhong will likely spend the Fourth of July -- America's Independence Day -
- worrying about the future of his sprawling fireworks factory. China, where fireworks were invented, is running short of ports from which to ship the dangerous cargoes abroad.
The day is a great occasion for fireworks across the U.S., and China's fireworks industry meets 98 percent of America's overall needs, and 80 percent of the pyrotechnics needed for professional displays. But the U.S. fireworks business stands to lose US$25 million to US$30 million this year because of lost orders, says Julie Heckman, executive director for the American Pyrotechnics Association.

A Missouri firm says it backed out of some shows because of the shortage. Meanwhile, some Chinese factories are being pushed close to bankruptcy.

"Our factory will be forced to close, whether we want it or not," said Chen Tiezhong at his sprawling 500-employee operation in Liuyang in central Hunan province.

His factory is one of 900 around this small city that is known as China's fireworks capital. A traffic circle features a massive metal sculpture of rockets soaring and bursting into flower-like shapes. The Chinese word for fireworks is "yanhua" or "smoke flowers."

Most of the factories are far from town, tucked safely away among the farms in surrounding hills and valleys.

Chen rattles off a litany of woes: micro-thin profit margins, rising labor costs and soaring prices for raw materials.

Now, the closure of some Chinese ports to fireworks may be the final straw.

In February, a blast at a fireworks warehouse led to a ban on fireworks shipments at the southern port of Sanshui, Guangdong province, which previously handled 20 percent of China's pyrotechnic exports.

Then, in late March, officials stopped fireworks shipments at Nanshan, another Guangdong port, after inspectors found explosives that had been declared as something else.

Guangdong may not allow fireworks shipments to resume, because the province is trying to shift its economy to more sophisticated goods.

Adding to the industry's woes, China has ordered major ports such as Shanghai and Hong Kong to suspend shipments of explosives as part of tightened security ahead of August's Beijing Olympics.

"It's been extremely difficult," Chen said. "There is simply no way out even if we're willing to pay 10,000 yuan (more than US$1,400) extra for each container."

In China, 30 to 40 percent of fireworks for overseas customers have not shipped, forcing many of the country's 7,000 factories to curtail or even stop taking overseas orders, said Liu Donghui, the secretary-general of China-based International Fireworks Association.

On the U.S. end, 10 percent to 15 percent of orders didn't show up, said Heckman.

China ordinarily sends 9,000 shipping containers of fireworks a year to the U.S., she said, and the shortfall "is by far the most difficult challenge the U.S. fireworks industry has had to face."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fireworks Music Candle

When you light the center of the fireworks music candle with a wooden stick, a flame appears that lights up the candle on the leaves in a sparkling fashion. In addition to this, it plays a Happy Birthday song

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feb 14,China Shanshui Warehouse explosive

GUANGZHOU, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Firefighters in south China's Guangdong Province began to clear up the debris as explosions caused by fireworks stored in 20 warehouses in Foshan City waned on Friday.

Five people, including four warehouse guards, were questioned by police in connection with the incident, said a spokesman for Foshan's Sanshui District Communist Party of China (CPC) committee.

The State Administration of Work Safety has sent two commissioners and an expert to Sanshui to investigate.

Zhou Wei, a warehouse worker, told Xinhua the buildings have been used to store nothing other than fireworks since 2003, and electricity was never used for safety purposes. Experts said weather conditions and arson were possible causes for the explosions.

The blasts started around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday at the No. 7 building of the Yuetong Warehouse and Transport Co., a private firm based in Sanshui on the northern bank of the Pearl River. The explosions lasted more than 30 hours and also set a neighboring woods on fire, a Foshan government official said.

Only two people suffered slight bruises from broken glasses