The 4th of July is a universal favorite among Americans young and old. It’s a day of family fun that starts off with a parade and ends with a bang, when then night lights up with fireworks. Everyone, except maybe the family dog, loves fireworks, with their dazzling colors, sparkles, and booms. Whether they are professional shows at sporting events, or a pack of bottle rockets bought at a road side stand, fireworks are something that fascinate and delight, but demand serious respect.

Fireworks go back a very long way to ancient China, but the basic principal is still the same today. All fireworks contain the same basic components; a shell, an explosive, and a fuse. Specific metals are mixed in with the explosives to create the beautiful colors we all love; strontium gives us red, barium gives us green, and copper blue. These metals are combined with other materials to create the colors, sparkles, and noise. Naturally, there are extremely high standards for the manufacture of fireworks in order make sure that no consumers are injured by a premature detonation.

One primary difference between professional aerial fireworks and consumer grade backyard fireworks is the launch method. Typically, the launch process for a bottle rocket or cherry bomb involves lighting the fuse and running like hell. Professional aerial fireworks use a 2 stage process, first using a mortar tube, or canon, to initially launch the firework, after-which the fuse in the shell takes over. Naturally, this is a process that must be very carefully calculated, and requires professional hands.

Safety also extends to the launch environment. Both the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) as well as individual states, regulate how high fireworks must be set to explode, so as not to hurt bystanders, buildings, or local flora and fauna. This is particularly important in states like California that are more prone to wild fires. In fact, in drought years, fireworks can even be outlawed temporarily. To make sure the fireworks explode at the right height, professionals adjust the charge in the launch tube to ensure that the shell reaches the right height before its own fuse takes over.

Between the specialty ingredients and the careful safety considerations, fireworks are a pastime that should be approached with care and consideration. But if a few precautions are taken, then fireworks can continue to delight young and old both in the backyard and our nations birthday.