Preparation for fireworks show a labor of love

Aaron K. Nelson anelson@civitasmedia.com

July 3, 2014

PRESTONSBURG — Behind-the-scenes work to make the city of Prestonsburg’s July 4 fireworks display a success involves days of manual labor.

Crews with the Prestonsburg Fire Department have spent the week clearing vegetation, digging holes, erecting tents, and laying out the equipment necessary for the big show. Mortar tubes have been entrenched in the hillsides, ranging from three inches for rapid-fire rockets to massive eight-inch barrels for the biggest shells.

One of those eight-inch mortars, the only one angled directly over town, is fired off in honor of Phillip “Rusty” Chaffins, a career firefighter who loved helping out with the fireworks show until his tragic passing from a heart attack.

Prestonsburg Fire Chief Bobby Carpenter says the show this year consists of roughly 500 individual fireworks, with an additional 150 just for the grand finale. He says the show should last somewhere between 25 and 35 minutes.

With that many fireworks going off, tight coordination is the key for both the quality of the show and the safety of the workers. Counts of their fireworks are made several times, and the teams that reload the mortar tubes specialize in just one size of shell, to prevent hazardous mix-ups.

Carpenter says they have been using the same mountain just behind First Commonwealth Bank, affectionately dubbed “Boom Boom Hill,” for the past 15 years, but this year could be their last. A cell phone company is hoping to erect a new tower on the hill, which will mean the firefighters will have to find a new location—hopefully one that offers the same benefit of making the fireworks show visible from both downtown and from Archer Park.

Prestonsburg’s fireworks will go off just after dark on the evening of Friday, July 4.