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For backyard fireworks, know the regulations beforehand

Fireworks are a traditional way to celebrate the Fourth of July, and with the cancellation of the big shows in Jaffrey and Peterborough this year, it’s likely that many folks may opt for shooting off their own backyard displays for the holiday.

So Steve Pelkey, CEO of Atlas Pyrovision Productions in Jaffrey, which has five retail stores in New Hampshire, expects a booming business (sorry, couldn’t resist) this summer.

“Historically, when municipalities cut back, we see an increase in consumer use,” says Pelkey. “People are going to celebrate, and fireworks are a big part of that.”

Atlas has done major fireworks shows in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., and other major cities around the world and for years drew huge crowds to its hometown Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks. But the retail stores give people lots of choices if they want a do-it-yourself experience.

The first thing to do, Pelkey emphasizes, is to check on local ordinances. While fireworks may legally be sold in New Hampshire, some towns require permits for a home fireworks display.

“Check with your local fire department. Even if you don’t need a permit, it’s a good idea to let them know what you have planned. You also have to be at least 21 years old, and you have to shoot on your own property.”

Pelkey says there are a variety of choices for a home display.

“It depends on your site and your audience. The lion’s share of our sales are fountains and the smaller repeaters. You can use them in a lot of areas.”

Fountains, which are stationary devices that produce a colorful show that can go up to 15 feet in the air, are popular for small back yards. The small multishot repeaters, also known as aerial cakes, will shoot up 40 to 60 feet and do a series of explosions for a minute or two, all from a single fuse.

In a big open field, heavyweight repeaters can go as high as 100 to 120 feet.

“They require a larger area,” Pelkey says. “Those are for people at the edge of a lake.”

Pelkey says fountain devices range in price from $2 to $50, smaller cakes go for $4 to $30 and larger cakes cost $50 to $150.

“For an average family display, 15 to 20 minutes, you might spend as little as $50 but could spend $400 or $500. Sometimes families will pool their money for a good neighborhood show.”

As for safety, Pelkey says common sense is the key.

“Use the fireworks as directed. Don’t try to do something that they weren’t designed to do. Keep children at least 50 to 60 feet away from the smaller devices and 100 feet or more from the larger one. And always have a fire extinguisher or a hose handy.”

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