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Behind the Scenes: See Fireworks Explode From Just Inches Away


"It's just like a big show, but better. It's right in your face."

Unless you work in pyrotechnics or know someone who does, you've never seen fireworks quite like this.

Pyrotechnico, an award-winning fireworks and special events company that's been in business for more than 120 years, invited TheBlaze to get a behind-the-scenes tour of one of their fireworks barges to witness one of their water-based shows just outside of Washington, D.C.

fireworks Pyrotechnico TheBlaze got special access to a fireworks barge just outside of Washington, D.C.

"We only have room for one extra person on the barge, for safety," warned Mike Shook, the Virginia operations manager for Pyrotechnico. "But you'll get as close as you can to the show."

The carefully coordinated show is timed to the hundredth of a second via GPS satellites and Pyrotechnico's firing system. Shook equated their technique for lining up music with the fiery explosions to a super-fast mailman.

"The firing system will send a signal to each module which then fires 30 frame per second to any individual box," he said. "In layman's, I explain that each module is like a post office and each box is like a mailbox -- but we can deliver the signal to 30 different places within a second."

fireworks Pyrotechnico Mike Shook, a 29-year veteran of the pyrotechnics community, said coordinating a fireworks show from water takes extra care since you have to ensure other boaters don't put themselves in danger.

Shook, who has been working in the pyrotechnic world for 29 years, explained the five-minute show at the National Harbor has a limited ceiling and they have to file a waiver with the Federal Aviation Administration; they can only shoot the fireworks roughly 200 feet in the air and have to carefully coordinate around airplane traffic coming in and out of Reagan National Airport.

"Here we have to coordinate with the Coast Guard, Reagan air tower, and we have a really good relationship with all of these guys," Shook said, "I'll be calling in those [water traffic] announcements just prior to departing the dock, after the fire marshall finishes his inspection, and then we'll call the air tower to let them know we'll begin the show."

Shook said even though the show is smaller than most, it doesn't feel that way, because they can actually get closer to the crowd.

"Roughly, for 2-inch shells the bursts will happen around 200 feet, for 3-inch shells, 300 hundred feet, and so on," he explained, "but we only have to be a few hundred feet away from the shore, so it's technically a 'smaller' show, but it's actually a better show than most people will see when the fireworks are way up there -- they actually are closer to it."

"It's just like a big show, but better. It's right in your face," Shook said.

We agree.

Especially when the pyrotechnics masters let you mount two GoPro cameras just inches from the exploding candles. 

fireworks Pyrotechnico The fireworks were within hundreds of feet of the spectators.

fireworks Pyrotechnico But TheBlaze got special access to place high-definition cameras just feet from the exploding candles for a unique view of the show.

Check out the behind-the-scenes video and the fireworks show captured from the barge. In the video, you can see the fireworks shooting out from the candles and the explosions in the sky -- simultaneously. Check it out!

Happy Independence Day!

And if you happen to be stuck inside because Hurricane Arthur ruined your fireworks plans, fear not. Check out the mesmerizing reverse edit of this fireworks show, then take our quiz and tell us what you think it most resembles.


Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

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