Having a blast for a living

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Jeff Sanchez and his team at ShowPro Pyrotechnics, a subsidiary of JamzMedia Productions, have put on hundreds of fireworks shows since he formed the company in 2012.

Sanchez began his training in pyrotechnics in 2007 with world-renowned companies all over world including in Europe, Australia and Manila.

“I wondered what fireworks were all about and I got to meet the late Mr. John Salas, who was Guam’s fireworks guy. I thought, 'Wow, this is kind of cool!' He passed away in 2007, and I thought, 'I wonder who is going to do it now?' I thought I should get into this,” Sanchez said.

When he learned an off-island company which had provided fireworks for several years on Guam was no longer going to serve the area, he decided to start his own business.

But the line of work comes with some risks.

Fire department on standby

“It’s extremely dangerous. You have to understand the product is the ‘little brother’ to dynamite. And dynamite basically blows up rock quarries and demolishes building and whatnot,” Sanchez said. “So we are working with a product that is highly combustible and extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. We take our training very seriously and we follow all of the federal and local requirements.”

He said safety is his team’s top priority and how the fireworks are set up, set off, and even transferred and stored, is highly regulated.

Part of those procedures is having the Guam Fire Department on standby during the show, and to conduct an inspection beforehand.

“If they do not permit us to shoot because of something they see that’s wrong, we don’t shoot,” he said.

A lot of variables

Some factors the Fire Department considers are out of his control, Sanchez said.

“The crowds might be rowdy or get into the safe zone. So, there are things we have to take into consideration,” he said. “Other than just seeing a fantastic show up there, there are so many other things that you have to know that you are dealing with. There is a lot that comes with this business.”

Other than the time in 2017 when some of the shells ignited during setup for Liberation Day (no one was hurt and the fireworks show still went off) ShowPro Pyrotechnics has had a “very clean and blessed record,” Sanchez said, “We have not had the need to call an emergency firetruck or anything.”

Good weather also helps, he said.

‘A little bit of wind is good’

“Wind is the biggest deterrent to fireworks because it makes the fireworks unpredictable — where they are going to go, how far they are going to go,” he said. Though “a little bit of wind is good, and they can even shoot through a bit of rain.”

On New Year’s, “We are hoping for clear skies and a little bit of wind,” he said.

On Friday, Sanchez and his crew began setting up for the midnight New Year’s fireworks.

Two big, 12-minute shows will go off at Ypao Beach and in Hagåtña at the sewage plant. Two smaller 5- to 6-minute private shows will go off at LeoPalace and the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort. A kids’ show will go off at Ypao Beach at 9 p.m.

“It’s nice to have that, so kids can watch and go to sleep,” Sanchez said.

What is also nice, said Sanchez, is a happy crowd.

“One of the things I could say goes of most pyros — a person that does pyrotechnics: We always look forward to the ohhhs! and the aahhs! and the claps and the end of the shows. That is priceless,” he said.

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