5 Fireworks Disasters That Were Incredibly Fun To Watch
Happy 4th of July! Fireworks are stupid! That's been my stance on the issue since around the age of 12 or so, when I realized that every fireworks display has looked exactly the same for decades now. We wouldn't put up with such a state of stagnation from any other entertainment source, but year after year, we give fireworks a pass. We talk about the various drawbacks and shortcomings of annual fireworks displays and other "fun" summer activities on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Maria Shehata and my Cracked co-worker Tom Reimann.
I'm talking about fireworks in this column as well, albeit in a slightly different way. While I stand by my assertion that a fireworks display is nothing more than a screensaver in the sky set to movie sound effects, there are certain occasions when watching them can be incredibly enjoyable. That, of course, is when they malfunction. Here are some of the most visually stunning fireworks failures of all-time.
Fireworks Truck Explodes In 193-Vehicle Pileup In Michigan
There are a lot of sources that have covered this incident, and almost all of them quote a different number of vehicles that were ultimately involved in the chaos. I'm using the largest one I've seen so far simply for dramatic effect. Drama is also what makes this video so special. Unlike the other disasters I've covered, all of which were captured on video from a seemingly safe distance, this one is happening way up close. A TV news reporter captured the footage, hopefully by setting the camera on a nearby tripod before fleeing for his life. The best part is how he was apparently there almost as soon as the fire started, judging from this shot.
Even when it's mostly just smoke and pretty lights, it looks fairly intense.
But then this happens ...
... and all of the sudden, it looks like you're in the eye of a tornado made of fire.
That could very well be the case, actually. According to reports about the crash, the area where it happened was in the midst of a wind tunnel that made driving conditions nearly impossible for everyone, which should be obvious, seeing as how hundreds of cars and trucks just plowed into each other at once.
Of course, like so many other disasters, the unsafe conditions weren't the only culprit. The final analysis was that the main cause of the accident was asshole drivers following too close and driving too fast on ice-covered roads. The report didn't actually call those people assholes, but they definitely are.
The Kolding Fireworks Factory Explosion
Before it exploded and turned Seest -- a tiny suburb of Kolding, Denmark -- into what some authorities referred to as a "moon landscape" of burned-out rubble, most residents probably paid no mind to the fact that there was a massive fireworks factory hiding in plain sight in their town. This is what it looked like on the night it became a town attraction that mattered:
The whole thing started when two employees dropped a box of fireworks while working inside a container that was filled with even more fireworks. The impact with the ground somehow caused the box to ignite, forcing the employees to flee. No one is ever brave enough to just pick up a burning box of fireworks and toss it out a window to safety, you know? The ensuing explosion set off the fireworks inside that container. By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze was too intense to contain. This started a chain reaction of some of the most impressive and powerful explosions you'll see this side of a nuclear blast. That will sound like a lot less of an exaggeration when you note that this beauty ...
... produced the kind of mushroom cloud you normally only see in movies about Russia destroying the '80s.
For an even better perspective, check out this video that was shot from four kilometers (whatever those are) away.
For the first half of the video, while the initial fire is burning, the sky is almost black, with the flames just barely visible. When that second explosion happens, the sky looks like this ...
... and the cloud it eventually produces looks like the goddamn apocalypse.
Sadly, one firefighter lost his life battling the fire, and 12 emergency workers were injured. But thanks to an effective evacuation effort, losses for residents of the town were mostly limited to houses and buildings. Granted, that means pretty much all of the houses and buildings, but it certainly could have been worse.
San Diego Puts On The Best Show Ever!
The Big Bay Boom is a fireworks display that happens every year in San Diego. It's said to be one of the largest and most logistically complex fireworks displays in the world. Man, just imagine what it would look like if, instead of the slow, calculated detonation of several fireworks over an extended period of time, all of that shit just went up at once. That's precisely what happened in 2012, when the entire display detonated in less than 40 seconds.
As impressive as that may be to look at, you're doing yourself a disservice if you watch the video with the sound off. If nothing else, take the time to plug in your headphones so you can hear various spectators, completely unaware that things have gone off the rails in the most exciting way possible, marveling at how "insane" this year's display looks. Just as the sky returns to black ...
... a woman can be heard saying, "This is the best fireworks show ever!" It's as if the fireworks resented all the hard work they were doing and stopped solely out of spite for her joy and enthusiasm.
The fiasco was apparently caused by a computer glitch, and it actually took just 15 seconds for the entire cache to be set off. It took twice as many scintillating seconds for it all to disappear from the night sky. Immediately after, people were told to go the fuck home because the party was over.
Needless to say, people weren't happy. Probably even less so if their rage ever compelled them to look into exactly how much it costs to put on a fireworks display of that magnitude, which is sometimes in the $6 million range. That's a lot of taxpayer money squandered on a large-scale recreation of the brief pyrotechnic bursts you'd see behind any metal band at any concert.
Simi Valley Fireworks Attack Spectators
Seeing as how fireworks shoot directly into the sky and burn out harmlessly, people who gather to watch them tend to not set their alert levels for potential danger as high as they should, given the sheer amount of explosives nearby. Residents of Simi Valley, California learned the importance of staying on your toes while artillery shells are exploding around you the hard way when, during a 4th of July display in 2013, a platform malfunction caused several rounds of fireworks to shoot off horizontally, in the direction of a crowd of 10,000 spectators, some standing just 900 feet away.
While the visuals produced by this mishap are some of the most impressive on this list, the joy you find in watching them should only last as long as it takes for people to start screaming, at which point you realize this is just a little bit of extra gunpowder short of being a military assault on a crowd of innocent civilians.
Fortunately, no one was killed, but 28 people were injured. Four had serious injuries, but they weren't life-threatening. This L.A. Times article also makes sure to point out that an LAPD officer suffered damage to the leather on his belt when he was hit in the back with shrapnel.
The event was sponsored by the Rotary Club (in case you were wondering what they do for your city), who contracted the work out to a New York firm called Bay Fireworks, which had previously built displays for companies ranging from Walt Disney World to NASA. That's a point I'm bringing up only to ask, "Holy shit, why does NASA need to pay someone to build them fireworks?" If nothing else, just entertain yourself by blowing up a few of those useless shuttles and rockets that we retired after the events of the Apollo 18 mission made it clear we could never return to the moon again.
We must have developed the technology that would allow us to autopilot one of those things to a safe exploding distance by now. Or barring that, just let a one-percenter pay millions of dollars for the honor of being the one selected to provide this great nation with the ultimate entertainment. They're no strangers to paying handsomely for the glimmer of hope that they'll one day fly in something that's almost guaranteed to catastrophically explode mid-flight.
Mexican Fireworks Stand Becomes Instant Michael Bay Film
At a fireworks factory or storage facility, the rules of operation should ideally dictate that you put some space between things to help keep all of it from exploding at the same time in the event of a fire. That's why disasters like the aforementioned Kolding explosion unfold over several minutes, with a few different massive explosions in between. You have no such luxury when running a fireworks tent at an open air pyrotechnics market in Mexico.
So when things go wrong, it looks like this almost immediately.
Not long after, you have a full-on Michael Bay movie on your hands.
If there's any semblance of a silver lining to be found in this blockbuster-esque disaster, it's that this dog got away safe ...
... and there were firetrucks nearby.
Granted, they didn't arrive in time to keep what looks like a portal to hell from opening ...
... but still, shout out for being on hand. Again, because of the densely packed nature of the market where this tent was located, it didn't take long for everything around it to explode as well. To appreciate just how large of an area we're talking, have a look at this aerial shot of the disaster.
Apparently, the fire was ignited when a customer fired a rocket into a pile of other fireworks, because who wouldn't be curious to see what happens when you do that? Surprisingly and fortunately, no one died, but in all, 100 people were injured, 23 cars were damaged, and all 300 stalls at the market were destroyed. So it should still serve as a stark warning of the dangers of firing fireworks into piles of other fireworks. I also sincerely hope you didn't actually need that warning.
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For more from Adam, check out 5 Weird Stalking Stories With Creepy Plot Twists and 5 Cover Songs That Deserve More Praise Than The Original.