By: Ben Worthen
Wall Street Journal
Published on: December 26, 2012
Jeff Thomas has been setting off explosives in the Bay Area since 1974. Don't worry: He runs Bay Area operations for Pyro Spectaculars Inc., a major producer of fireworks displays.
Mr. Thomas coordinates fireworks in many communities, including for San Francisco's Independence Day and New Year's Eve celebrations.
In recent years, he also has put together shows for the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants.
When major-league baseball slugger Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking home run for the Giants in 2007, Mr. Thomas had a fireworks celebration ready to go.
"We sat for a week and a half waiting for him," says Mr. Thomas, 59 years old.
With New Year's Eve approaching, Mr. Thomas discussed his favorite fireworks displays, the best places to watch the shows and the San Francisco area's omnipresent challenge—the fog.
WSJ: How have fireworks changed since you started?
Mr. Thomas: There are brighter reds, brighter blues and stronger golds. There is now orange and pink and aqua and magenta. The patterns in the sky have gotten more creative. I like the big, long duration, gold, glittery type effects. The products themselves have gotten more reliable.
We have a database now that we didn't have 25 years ago with video of each shell, so if you forget what something does you can go back and revisit the video.
Each show is different, each venue is different. Sometimes the New Year's show, I can use 10-inch shells because we're launching the show out in the water, where there's no spectators or buildings. That's pretty rare. That's [the size of] a basketball. Usually [shells are in] the five-inch to six-inch range.
The five-inch goes 500 feet in the air before it explodes, the 10 inch goes 1,000 feet in the air before it explodes.
A 10-inch shell might go to 2,500 feet across the sky, whereas a five-inch might only go 1,000 feet across the sky.