Coping with bad weather
Contrary to popular belief fireworks do work in the rain if you take suitable precautions when setting them up. However it’s not just rain the great British weather throws at you, it’s wind too. This article won’t change the weather but will give you some useful advice on coping with it.
Rain, rain go away
If you are taking your fireworks out one at a time to let them off, rain does not normally pose a problem. Once a firework starts it won’t usually go out because the internal fuse is well protected especially with cakes and candles. Just ensure you keep the outer fuse covered and bone dry until you light it.
If you are setting up your fireworks in advance they are easy to waterproof. You just need to spend a little extra time to cover each firework either with bags or clingfilm. The setting up guides for each type of firework cover this in more detail: Cakes and candles, rockets, mines and wheels and fountains and lancework.
Rain or damp weather can often take its toll on your firework lighters or blow torches. So always take some spares if the weather is going to be bad. Keep unused portfires dry – but not in your pockets, where they pose a burn risk.
Take care when ripping off bags or clingfilm to get to the fuses that you do not allow any pools of water to soak straight into the fuse, which will almost certainly render it useless. A good torch, preferably mounted on your head, is useful in these circumstances.
A firework audience will get a little anxious before the display since it is a commonly held belief that fireworks don’t work in the rain. If your contact details are on posters or other event publicity be prepared to take calls during the day or evening from people checking to see if the display goes ahead.
There are times of course when extreme rain can scupper a fireworks display. If the display area gets completely waterlogged then it may not be safe to attempt to light fireworks in it. It may be the case that during the display the rain is simply too heavy for firers to clearly see what they are doing, this is a safety risk and the display should be abandoned. Wet weather may also contribute to goggles and visors steaming up. If you or your firers cannot see clearly you should not go ahead with the display and you should never fire without eye protection just because it is steaming up!
You may also decide to call off a display if it’s likely not enough people will actually turn up!
Be prepared in wet conditions for some of your fireworks to fail to light. Although it’s rare, one or two might give up halfway through if it is really heavy rain. In this event what is your Plan B? Ensure all the firers know what to do if this happens. Never try and relight a firework that has gone out. Move onto the next one.
Wind – the scourge of firework displays
A strong wind, rather than rain, is actually the most dangerous weather condition to contend with! Two factors come into play, the strength of the wind and the direction.
The most serious problem is when the wind is blowing from the fireworks towards the spectators. This is very bad news. Even a slight wind can render a 25m safety distance useless. You should never, ever, display if firework debris will be carried over the audience. The hope is that during your setting up you can get an accurate forecast and take wind direction into account, moving the fireworks if required to keep the audience safe. Another option is to move the fireworks further away, however this will lessen the impact of your display if you move it too far.
Where the wind is blowing from the spectators towards the fireworks the debris will be carried away into your fall out area. In big venues this is ideal. A side wind is also usually OK – it can help to clear smoke away – as long as you have a sufficient fall out area along the sides.
In back gardens you will need to judge where the wind is blowing and how far debris will carry. You should not let off fireworks if the wind will carry debris into other people’s gardens (unless that is a fall out area agreed with your neighbour).
If the wind direction is in your favour you will be able to display in windier conditions than if the direction is towards your audience. However their are no specific limits on wind speed because it very much depends on your site, your fireworks and where the wind is blowing. So it always becomes a case of assessing the risks at the time and making an informed decision. There will always be a strength of wind that will create a dangerous situation regardless of direction and in that case you should abandon your display.
Paradoxically, no wind at all can cause great problems with bigger displays. Here the smoke will hang around and obscure the fireworks. So the best weather conditions are always a slight breeze blowing the firework smoke and debris away from the audience.
Mist and fog
These conditions are more of a problem for professional displays because aerial shells can reach several feet in height and disappear into the murk. For consumer displays you’d need extremely bad fog to create a problem however your larger display rockets may be hard to see.
Fireworks are not affected by the extremes of temperatures found in the UK however a change of temperature at dusk can create condensation and dew, another reason why you should always waterproof your fireworks even if rain is not forecast.
Always check the weather forecast on the day.
Waterproofing fireworks even in dry conditions has been proven time and time again so save displayer’s reputations in the event of rogue showers, damp ground, dew or condensation!
Smoke bombs or portfires (firework lighters) can be used to help check wind direction.
Don’t be afraid to abandon the display if you are not 100% happy. This is far preferable than risking an accident.