Stray bullet in Belfair wrecking yard ignites 2 cities’ worth of fireworks

Article below about the Fireworks Explosion which had Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo fireworks shows inside. The good news is that they are busily replacing all of the fireworks so the show will go on as planned!

Tim Longley
VP Bainbridge Fireworks Org

Kitsap Sun - Printer-friendly story

By Katie Scaff

Monday, June 25, 2012

BELFAIR — Some late-night target practice almost put a hole in two major Fourth of July shows.

The ricocheting bullet set off $30,000 worth of stored fireworks and left a crater-sized hole, but celebration organizers in Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island say the shows will go on.

Image of what is left after fireworks explosion.

Unexpected Wrecking Yard Fireworks Show

According to officials, the owner of Belfair Truck & Auto Wrecking said that he and his daughter were target shooting with a new rifle at around 1 a.m. — setting off a cargo container of fireworks stored on the property.

“He claims he fired at a junk car in the wrecking yard, and the bullet must have ricocheted off that,” said Ron Krell, president of Viking Fest Corp., which puts on the Third of July show in Poulsbo. He described the incident as “one of those one-in-a-million chances.”

“You wouldn’t believe the crater in the earth here from the magazine of fireworks. It woke my wife up — she thought we were having an earthquake,” Mason County Fire District 2 fire investigator Jeromy Hicks said.

“Folks kind of described it as an earthquake feeling,” Fire Chief Beau Bakken said. The blast woke up the firefighters at his station about a half-mile away.

“They thought they’d be responding to something,” Bakken said. “They knew by the seismic activity that something would be coming down the pike.”

Mason’s District 2 and South Kitsap Fire and Rescue responded to the property straddling Mason and Kitsap counties. They found the shipping container on fire, with mortar rounds continuing to go off.

“It was quite the blast. It blew it right off its foundation — in fact it rolled twice,” Bakken said of the container holding the fireworks. “To have that many explosives go up like that that is a first for me — It was something else.”

Fireworks hit junk cars sparking spot fires throughout the property, and a mountain of old tires was set ablaze. A heavy-duty excavator was needed to clear debris and tires so firefighters could get to the flames, which took crews five hours to douse.

None of the fireworks in the cargo container was salvageable, but replacements are on the way and the two local firework shows will continue as planned, according to Aurora Fireworks owner Robert Nitz, who has been contracted to put on the shows for the past few years.

“It’s like everyone’s worst nightmare,” Bainbridge Chamber of Commerce visitor center manager Mickey Molnaire said. “It was pretty much a disaster.”

Nitz, who owns the fireworks, is forced to front the costs of replacement — totaling more than $30,000

“I lost everything. Right now, I’m scrambling to take care of the towns,” Nitz said.

He declined to say whether he would be pressing charges against the owner of the wrecking yard.

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is investigating the explosion because the fire involved commercial fireworks.

Hicks confirmed that a bullet hit the container, sparking the explosions and fire.

“I don’t think there was an intent to do this on purpose,” Hicks said.

The investigation continued into the evening Monday as officials secured the area and waited to interview the wrecking yard owner.

While the bomb squad set off the few fireworks still intact after the morning fires, Nitz got in touch with Wolverine Fireworks.

The Seattle-based wholesale company will be able to replace all of the destroyed fireworks, except the water shells — something Nitz wanted to introduce at this year’s shows.

“I wanted to do this for the shows this year. I’ve never used water shells before — I’ve seen them used. They’re pretty cool,” Nitz said.

Nitz has to reprogram the shows, which are timed to music, to account for the missing water shells, but each still will be about 15 minutes.

Despite the minor program changes, all are relieved that the shows will go on.

“Being able to find that on short notice was a big question — I’m just thrilled that they’re able to replace them. It’s a wonderful tradition, and we’d certainly hate to not have it,” Molnaire said.

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