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A fireworks 'nightmare' recalled one year later
Pelham fire Chief James Midgley, during an interview for a National Fire Protection Association safety video, says he saw a large mushroom cloud from the fireworks explosion on his way to the scene. courtesy NFPA
A safety video from the National Fire Protection Association shows the damage to the home on Dodge Road in Pelham. Thirteen people, including five children, were injured in the fireworks explosion there. courtesy NFPA
N.H. State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan, in an image from a National Fire Protection Association video, says leave the fireworks to the professionals. courtesy NFPA
It was evidence of what experts call a "rapid exothermic reaction," Midgley said: "a very powerful release of energy over a very short period of time." And he knew something terrible had happened.
"These aren't the typical devices from years ago, firecrackers and bottle rockets, things we grew up with," Midgley said. "These are large explosives, almost like grenades, and they pack a heckuva punch."
The most seriously injured was the Pappathans' grandson, 3-year-old Ben Bertini.
Gleason recounted the call from his daughter the night of the explosion. "She said, 'I've just had the worst night of my life. My nightmare has come true.'"
The Foys and Pappathans could not be reached for comment last week.
Rep. Charlene Takesian, R-Pelham, agreed to sponsor such a measure in the last session, but it was retained in the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee for further study.
According to the state Fire Marshal's Office, there were 19 injuries from fireworks reported voluntarily to the state in 2012.
"It was just a tragic mistake of the people who actually were doing that," he said.
Atlas also has five retail locations in New Hampshire and one in Maine that sell some of the items Takesian's legislation would ban.
"There may be some items out there that need to be looked at, that maybe shouldn't be on the counter," he said, "but we don't believe that the Legislature is the one that should decide which items should or should not be."
Midgley said he's not out to ban all fireworks, just those that caused such havoc in his town a year ago. "Not all fireworks are created equal," he said. "Just because you can get it doesn't mean it's safe."
"We'll have games and a bouncy house and a dunk-tank," Gleason said. "That's adequate."
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