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Plymouth Police Warn Of Unexploded Debris After Fireworks Malfunction

PLYMOUTH (CBS) — Fire officials say a fireworks shell exploded inside a mortar tube during Plymouth’s Fourth of July celebration Monday night causing a barge to catch fire.

Nobody was injured in the incident. The fireworks operator was on another boat, separate from the barge.

Photos taken of the barge fire by responding firefighters. (Plymouth Police Department)

Photos taken of the barge fire by responding firefighters. (Plymouth Police Department)

Witness Danielle Harrington was watching the display from a boat about 3/4 of a mile from the barge. She said about halfway through the show, something went wrong.

“The fireworks went off, and the explosion went from one end to the other, and it was just all smoke, but everything lit up at once going down the whole barge,” said Harrington.

A fire on a barge during Plymouth's fireworks celebration. (Photo credit Julia Nittler)

A fire on a barge during Plymouth’s fireworks celebration. (Photo credit Julia Nittler)

Another spectator said there was a large explosion, which shook her house all the way across the bay.

“There was some pretty tremendous explosion,” said Plymouth Fire Chief Ed Bradley. “It appears there was either a misfire, it got stuck in the tube, or blew down rather than up.”

Chief Bradley said that, as firefighters put out the flames on the first barge, another malfunction on the second barge sparked another fire.

Some on social media said it appeared that all the fireworks went off at once.

“We only had 15 minutes of fireworks, and then everything stopped,” said Harrington. “It wasn’t really scary, it was more concerning.”

Chief Bradley said about 65 percent of the fireworks did not go off. The State Fire Marshal’s office said Tuesday that one of the barges is still fully loaded, and the other, which caught fire, still has some unexploded fireworks on board.

Investigators were preparing to board a boat to examine the barges at noon Tuesday.

“Fireworks, playing with explosives, it’s probably the worst-case scenario,” said Bradley. “Luckily the weather wasn’t too bad, so we had that at least in our favor.”

Fire officials were also concerned about any fireworks that may have fallen off the barges, and were asking the public Tuesday to contact them if they find any of those fireworks washed up on shore.

In a separate incident in Salisbury, another barge caught fire–this time due to trash left on the barge. The State Fire Marshal’s office said the technician in charge of shooting off those fireworks will be called before an administrative hearing to determine whether they can still hold a certificate to shoot fireworks.

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said in a statement that state regulations requiring that fireworks be set off electronically, rather than manually with flares, were part of the reason nobody was injured in either incident.

“These incidents underscore just how unpredictable fireworks are even for trained professionals,” said Ostroskey in the statement.

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