Fuse and professional ignition systems
The use of fuse to link fireworks or the use of e-matches to electrically light fireworks are amongst the most enquired about subjects by enthusiasts wanting to take their displays to the next level. Unfortunately it’s not as simple a subject as you might think…
The use of additional fuse to link fireworks together
Many consumers ask about fuse because they want a long lasting firework effect and think you need to connect a number of smaller items together. This is not the case since very large cakes can last 2-3 minutes each. If you wanted an even longer effect such as a continuous 5 minute display you would not be able to do this with fuse anyway because there is no safe way of connecting two fireworks so that one starts when the other finishes. What you would do in this case is light one firework (by hand or with a consumer firing system) and then wait a period of time before lighting the other so the two fireworks overlap. Then you will get a great display without a gap and without having to use extra fuse.
If you are wanting to light multiple items at once, this is easy to do using hand lighting methods or consumer firing systems. Again, you do not need extra fuse to be able to do this.
Nonetheless, there may be instances in larger displays where you want to fuse fireworks together so you can hand light one fuse and have several fireworks start together. On the face of it, using a length of fuse to connect two or more fireworks together sounds quite straightforward. However, you will have noticed when shopping around fireworks retailers a complete lack of any fuse on sale. This stance by retailers is down to two key issues:
The use of extra fuse adds an element of risk to an already hazardous situation. You have to know what you are doing before attempting to use fuse with fireworks to avoid any potential accidents. The sale of fuse by fireworks retailers is likely to encourage consumers – many of whom have no fireworks experience – to start modifying their fireworks’ fusing. This is not a desirable situation if those customers have no training or experience in that area.
There has been a big debate during UKFR’s lifetime about whether fusing is legal or not for nonprofessionals. Some consider the use of extra fuse illegal because in many cases you need to cut the original fuse and this would be classed as modification. But very recently, our friends over at the UKPS (UK Pyrotechnics Society) have established with some compelling arguments that fusing by consumers is fully legal providing it is done on site at the place of intended firing. In other words, not at home or in the garage but safely on site when you are setting up.
Nonetheless there remains some difference of opinion and much confusion regarding the legality of fusing and it is unlikely you will see fuse on sale anytime soon at your local fireworks shop.
How this affects UKFR
Up until recently UKFR has taken the view that because fusing is a “grey area” with regards to legality, it would play safe and this would be a forbidden subject for discussion on this site. But as a result of the work done by UKPS to clarify the situation it is now felt there is no reason why this should not be covered on UKFR. After all, it remains one of the most frequently asked about subjects by UKFR readers! So from 2011 discussion about fusing will be allowed in the UKFR Fireworks Forum.
The situation is still being assessed with regards to providing official guides on the use of fuse. It is felt that the best time to cover this subject would be when fuse is widely available from mainstream firework retailers. This would be the point where consumers can easily buy the materials they need and it is actively supported by the fireworks industry. As things stand at the moment, the retail industry is still reluctant to venture down this road so UKFR is considering the best way to cover fusing in a responsible manner which is also supported by the fireworks trade.
E-matches and electrical ignition
The use of e-matches to enable ignition of consumer fireworks by a firing system falls into the same grey areas as discussed above. This is because e-matches are usually placed by professional firers inside the firework’s internal fusing or the firework’s fuse is cut to allow a good contact. Therefore this is not a subject currently covered by UKFR in its main guides (but is an allowable subject for discussion in the UKFR forum).
The good news is there are a number of excellent consumer firing systems on the market. These allow electrical ignition of fireworks remotely and use special clip-on e-matches that require no modification of the firework’s fuse at all, thus avoiding all the potential safety and legal risks. You can read more about these in the Remote Firing Systems article.
The use of fuse with fireworks is a very fluid area and will no doubt be subject to many discussions in the coming years. If you want to find out more or ask questions about fusing then why not try the UKFR Fireworks Forum. It’s a good place to ask for advice and there are dozens of trained professionals with direct experience using fuse who may be able to help.