Pyrotechnics and patriotism on the Fourth of July

Bainbridge Island’s favorite exposition of exothermic chemistry is set to light up the night sky this Independence Day.

Scott Isenman is the president of Bainbridge Fireworks and also coincidentally serves as a commissioner for the Bainbridge Island Fire Department. While not working to drum up financial support for the explosive showcase, Isenman is working with the pyrotechnics group Halo Fireworks to put on the event.

While Bainbridge’s big night of oooohhs and aaahhhhs comes straight from Eagle Harbor, it’s all by design. As one might expect, there are regulations which limit how close spectators can come to the mortar tubes, some of which can accommodate shells the size of dinner plates.

“One restriction that we have with where we do our show, is how large of a shell size that we can launch because of the required safety margins, so the largest shell in our show is a 12-inch in diameter mortar shell,” Isenman said.

“That requires us to have an 800-foot radius from the launching on the barge to the closest viewing point, so that’s what dictates that position of the barge, located out in the middle of the harbor,” he explained.

Isenman also said that boaters will be required to keep a safe distance, as well.

“We also try to create a perimeter on the water through patrol boats, to keep people outside of that zone.”

If the island’s fireworks have their own safe space, this is it. Because of the fireworks barge’s proximity to the ferry lanes to the north and the Port Madison Yacht Club to the west, there really isn’t anywhere else on Eagle Harbor the display could happen.

“We don’t really have much wiggle room to deviate on that location,” Isenman said.

Now on things looking up, Isenman said that spectators can expect the same level of explosive energy as seen in past years. But fireworks experts won’t be lighting the fuse on anything radically different.

“We’ve actually done a pretty similar show for the past eight years and we’ve had such great reviews, it may sound boring, but we said, ‘People love it so much, keep doing the same thing,’” Isenman laughed.

While it may be a blast from the past, the Fourth of July fireworks are not a cheap endeavor.

“We’re basically doing about a $20,000 show from a pyrotechnics standpoint, then we also have to hire a tug to move and locate the barge and the rental of the barge itself, so that adds about another $5,000 on top of that,” he said.

So what exactly does $20,000 of explosives look like?

Well, Isenman says that it can run the gamut, his personal favorite that will be making an appearance at this year’s show are the water shells.

“They’re actually big square-looking boxes of small mortar shells. And what the water shells specifically do is, they launch off the barge but lob out into the water in the vicinity right near the barge. And then they do something from there, either bursting up into the air or doing some effect at the water level,” he said.

“That’s one of the things that we like most, that we say, ‘Be sure to incorporate those again.’”

As for the big-booms, Isenman said that recent regulatory changes have had an effect on the size of shells that can be imported from China.

“One of the challenges we have is what [Halo Fireworks] can get and what they cost,” Isenman said.

Most of the primary supplies come from China, which have to be ordered much in advance. While they’re relatively affordable displays, some larger shells can no longer be imported.

Shells that are 12 inches in diameter are on that list, so this has led to Halo seeking more expensive domestic-made shells.

“Each one of those shells can be upwards of $400, so obviously with many of those shells, the price goes up dramatically with only a single pop,” Isenman said.

Despite the high price of lighting up the sky, Isenman said that Bainbridge Fireworks show is close to reaching their fundraising goal for the 2017 show. By Isenman’s estimates the group is about $3,000 shy of their $25,000 goal this year.

Donations can still be made online at or in person at the Chase Bank at 231 Winslow Way E.