Too Fast for Laid-Back San Diego - Technical Glitch Causes Big Bay Boom to Fire All at Once

July 5, 2012

An estimated half a million people were in attendance on July 4, 2011 for the Big Bay Boom, when world champion pyrotechnician Garden State Fireworks synchronized an approximate 20 minute long firework show along five locations around San Diego's sprawling bays.  The 2012 show lasted about 20 seconds.  People are up in arms over the brevity of the display, which is reportedly the result of a glitch in specific software used to synchronize the blasts with music.  While the disappointment is understandable, how often do you get to see four tractor trailer loads (over $125k) of fireworks explode nearly all at once from five separate locations around one of America's biggest cities?!? had the opportunity to talk to a spokesperson from Garden State Fireworks, and we conclude that the historically successful company is certainly more disappointed about the glitch than any of the onlookers.

This was the third year that Garden State Fireworks orchestrated San Diego's famous Big Bay Boom - one of the largest firework spectaculars in the United States.  The locations for the synchronized firework shoot include a barge off Shelter Island, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, South Embarcadero/Seaport Village/Coronado Landing and a pier location in Imperial Beach.  The last two years went off without incident, much like the thousands upon thousands of shows that Garden State has provided to awestruck onlookers throughout the past 130 years of business.  In all that time, this is the first instance of such a technical glitch for Garden State, a world class, award-winning pyrotechnics company known in the firework community as one of the best in the business.

The Santore Brothers of Garden State Fireworks
In 1982, Garden State Fireworks won the World Fireworks Championship at the international competition in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  The following year, the firm was asked to return to compete against the winner of the five previous years, and once again Garden State was victorious, returning with the International Grand World Fireworks "Interlauriat" Championship, the fireworks world's highest honor. 

In a letter from Jaques Quirey, the Director of the Monte Carlo competition wrote, "Your Victory in 1983 was too great for you to come back before a number of years because the other competitors would be afraid of not being able to compete with you."  

Garden State continued their series of success.  In May of 1986, the company won the Silver Jupiter representing the U.S.A. at the International Fireworks Festival at La Ronde in Montreal, Canada.  On August 17, 1991 in San Sebastian, Spain, Garden State competed against seven other firms from Europe and Australia at the 28th Annual San Sebastian International Fireworks Competition and was voted first place by nine out of the ten judges.  Rafael Aguirre, Director of the competition wrote, "The general opinion of over 200,000 spectators, is that it was the best display ever witnessed in the 28 years of the Spanish competition."

The glitch at the 2012 Big Bay Boom was the first such incident for Garden State Fireworks, who is extremely disheartened and disappointed by the incident.  

One of the fireworks barges heading out
"There was an electrical glitch that caused the fireworks to shoot off all at once.  Fortunately, the safety precautions assured that nobody was injured, but we want to apologize for the people who came out to see the display.  Such an occurrence has happened before in the firework community, and experts understand the chances for such incident, but this is the first for Garden State.  Every technologically based shoot has these possibilities, but it is never our intention to fail," a spokesperson from Garden State Fireworks explained to over a brief phone interview.  

The office of Garden State Fireworks have been receiving hate filled emails and telephone calls since the misfiring.  They have offered to perform a makeup show as a concession, but it is still up to the organizers whether to accept the offer.

"We are certainly distraught....and rest assured, the 'show' as it was, was not our intention. Nor do we view it as acceptable. As far as the environmental issue, I would hate for this unfortunate experience to become a reason for fireworks to be banned. This was an unintentional accident. And with superior and time tested safety standards, the construction of our mortars on the deck of the barge was solid enough to withstand an explosion of huge magnitude," the spokesperson continued.

Now being coined the "Big Bay Bust," this premature ignition is all after many years of grueling lawsuits against fireworks shows in San Diego, initiated in an attempt to block the big fireworks spectacular planned for La Jolla's annual 4th of July celebration and a judge's ruling in favor of environmental attorneys who argued that the city of San Diego was illegally issuing permits for such shows without proper environmental reviews.  Alas, a judge sided with Gonzalez, the environmental attorney at the forefront of the legal battle, agreeing that the city should review the impact, but allowing the shows to go on until the courts finalize the ruling.  We will see what happens next year in La Jolla, as the ruling is already under appeal. 

We are all insanely grateful that no one was injured.  Every Independence Day thousands of people, mostly children and teens, incur injuries by fireworks.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, "In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries and $36 million in direct property damage...U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks related injuries; 57% of 2010 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 37% were to the head."

Besides Garden State Fireworks, the people that we most sympathize with are those onlookers that were late to the ultimate Grand Finale.  In our modern world where people are in constant search for instant gratification, why sit through an entire show when the finale is the best part?!? Check out the video below to see the 2012 Big Bay Boom in its brief yet Earth shaking glory, and come on, let's not be so hard on Garden State Fireworks - we all have bad days!