Fireworks will have bigger bang this season

Safety • The new "cake" products need as much as 150 feet of clearance, experts warn.
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This summer Utahns have a choice between a cake and a fountain.

Until this fireworks season, Utah law restricted "aerial repeaters" — sometimes called "cake" fireworks — that shoot into the air and explode. The largest fireworks available in Utah before the ban were "fountains" that emit showers of sparks up to 15 feet.

"When you think of fireworks, you think of something spectacular that breaks in the air," said Theron Watson, CEO of the family-owned Olympus fireworks. "Now we can finally sell those in Utah."

Watson said "aerial repeaters" zoom 150 feet into the air and break into a colorful explosion. These fireworks are most often contained within a "cake." The pyrotechnic device gets its name because it is a collection of tubes fused together in a rectangular box — similar to a birthday cake. When lit, it shoots multiple flaming balls high into the air.

Cake fireworks were legalized by the Utah Legislature, in part, to discourage the flow of illegal fireworks into the state, said Brent Halladay, Utah State Fire Marshal.

The law also expanded the number of days fireworks are allowed. Utahns can now light up the skies from June 27 through July 26. Previously, fireworks could only be ignited three days before, on the day of, and three days following July 4 and July 24.

Of course, with greater firepower comes greater responsibility.

Cake fireworks need at least a 30-foot clearance from trees, carports, structures or other obstacles, Halladay said. Some need as much as 150 feet clearance in the air.

Firework injuries sent 512 Utahns to emergency rooms between 1999 and 2009, according to the Utah Department of Health. The majority were children ages 5-14.

And while the annual rate of injury has slowed over the years, officials urge renewed vigilance.

"The changes to Utah's fireworks laws are significant," said Halladay. "We're asking for everyone's help over the next several weeks by following the law and keeping your families and neighborhoods safe."

Watson suggests that these fireworks be surrounded by heavy stones or bricks, to ensure flight straight into the sky. Often, they said, problems start when the cake is knocked over and flaming balls begin to fly toward the onlookers or dry plants.

But be aware that the Legislature didn't legalize all types of firecrackers. Still not allowed are M-80s, cherry bombs, bottle rockets, Roman candles, single or reloadable mortars, and ground salutes.

For those who want to purchase a "cake", they come in two sizes, 200 gram and 500 gram, but vary widely in proportion and price. The 200-gram versions, are considered a medium firework that once ignited will shoot about five consecutive flaming balls 30-50 feet in the air. They costs between $2 and $35.

The 500-gram cakes are larger and more impressive and can cost between $50 to $200. One called "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" will shoot more than 30 shots over a minute; another cake can put on a seven minute show once ignited.

Watson said the best "bang-for-your-buck" cakes are "Loud and Rowdy," and "Magic Thunder," which each run at about $50. His suggestions come from more than 30 years of experience. He has been selling fireworks in the family business since he was 14.

Leslie Watson, Theron's mother, said that a full, professional-looking fireworks show can be put together for $400 to $ 500.

"They can get as big as a city fireworks display," she said. "And they really go up and do a professional job."

While the newly legal explosive devices have the potential for harm, health officials say sparklers are what injure most children.

"Parents tend to think they're harmless so they don't stop and take precautions," said Jenny Johnson, state violence and injury prevention coordinator. "The tip of a sparkler can reach temperatures over 1,200 degrees, hot enough to cause severe third-degree burns."

Kirsten Stewart contributed to this report Handle with care

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is at a public display. But backyard enthusiasts can play it safe by following these tips:

Never allow children to handle fireworks • You must be at least 16 years of age to light them and adults should always supervise.

Have a bucket of water or a running hose nearby • Soak used fireworks in water before throwing them away.

Children should be taught to hold a sparkler at arm's length from their body • And to not wave, throw, or run while holding them. And never hold more than one sparkler at a time.

Keep fireworks at an adequate distance from obstacles • And point them away from people, homes, trees and anything that could catch fire.

Never relight a "dud" firework • Wait 20 minutes then soak it in a bucket of water. Never let children pick up pieces of fireworks after an event as some can still explode.

Only use fireworks as they're intended • Never attempt to alter or combine them.

Don't hold fireworks in your hand • Wear eye protection and avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.

For more on fireworks safety visit: —

Pyrotechnic vocab:

Break • The release of effects into the air by an aerial firework

Cake • A multiple tube device comprising a series of aerial shells or "flaming balls," lit by one fuse

Fountain • A single-tube device that emits a constant shower of sparks, up to 15 feet in the air

Lift • How high a firework travels before it explodes

Report • Explosion; the bang