By Benjamin Leatherman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Katrina Montgomery
By Robrt L. Pela
By Kathleen Vanesian
By New Times
By Ray Stern
By Eric Tsetsi
Kendon Victor, 41, will help start 2006 off with a bang, or several hundred of them. As head pyrotechnician for Tempe-based Fireworks Productions of Arizona, he'll coordinate the launching of skyrockets in flight over both Scottsdale and Tempe's block parties, as well as at various casinos and country clubs Valleywide.
Glow jobs: There's always competition amongst head pyros; they're always looking to make their grand finale more spectacular or to have their shows really touch people emotionally.
Burning curiosity: We work hard on security, but inevitably you get someone who wants to check things out. They'll walk up to the site and you just escort them away. Depending on what they've been doing, and if they've been drinking, you've gotta be a little persuasive.
Blaze of glory: Our badge of honor is the number of burns on our shirts afterwards. We wear cotton shirts, and at the end of the show everybody checks each other to see how many burn marks on their clothes or on their Nomex hoods [a flame retardant material].
Explosive situation: We tell the fire agencies -- because they're not allowed to be where we are -- you may see something that looks horrendous, but if we don't stop the show, we're okay. So when you get a low break where it goes up and comes back down without exploding, it's like Monty Python: "Run away! Run away!" We'll meet someplace later so we can count heads, fingers and arms. We've had small burns and things like that, but no major injuries. We had one show where a shooter unfortunately got his hand over a tube that he shouldn't have. It didn't break his hand, but it shredded his glove, tore it off, and he had to go to the emergency room with a crack in his knuckle from where it had struck him.
Legion of boom: We're not all a bunch of flare-wielding yahoos, but in many ways we're a bunch of crazed pyromaniacs. We love making stuff go "boom." Strict adherence to the rules, but we have a good time. If we couldn't have fun, nobody would do it.