HAZEL DELL — Ed McGrath loaded up three shopping carts Sunday with fireworks worth about $1,900. His Fourth of July shopping wasn’t done yet.
The Beaverton, Ore., man said he usually spends up to $3,000 a year on fireworks for the holiday. His family’s stop at the TNT Fireworks Warehouse tent on Sunday in Hazel Dell allowed them to load up on the “pretty” fireworks that display bright, colorful bursts, he said. Next, they planned to go somewhere else to buy the ultra-loud fireworks.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a total pyromaniac,” McGrath said. “The louder the better.”
Fireworks sales started Sunday in parts of Clark County. A major hub for buyers was along Interstate 5 just north of Northeast 99th Street. Employees from multiple fireworks stands waved signs along nearby roadways, attempting to get the attention of drivers.
The TNT Fireworks Warehouse at the end of Northeast 13th Avenue is tough to miss from the freeway. The 13,000-square-foot tent, more than 40 feet tall at its highest peak, might be one of the largest fireworks tents in the world, General Manager Beau Leach said. The business is trying to be recognized as the largest such tent by Guinness World Records and should know if it has succeeded by early next month, Leach said.
The tent is stacked nearly floor to ceiling with fireworks. Top-40 music blares as employees try to answer any fireworks questions customers might have. Each year, the tent gets about 15,000 visitors, and this year it employs about 140 workers, Leach said.
Employee Alfonso Gonzalez, 17, said it took workers at least 10 days to stock the tent, and that his training involved watching every type of firework in the place go off in the days leading up to the tent’s opening. Seeing the fireworks firsthand helps workers answer customer questions about the product, he added.
It’s the teenager’s first job. He said that Fourth of July is “the best time of the year.”
“Christmas in July is what we like to call it,” Gonzalez said.
As people celebrate, public officials also hope they’ll remember to stay safe, especially with the dry conditions outdoors. Local fire marshals have urged people to observe professional fireworks displays rather than lighting off their own.
For citizens using their own fireworks, officials encourage them to buy from local stands that have been inspected by fire marshals; buy fireworks that will stay in the discharge area; light fireworks away from grass, shrubs, trees, fences or buildings; have a water source nearby and soak used fireworks in water before throwing them away in a metal trash container; and provide adult supervision for all fireworks use.