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Fireworks lacked proper storage

POULSBO — If the owner of Belfair Truck and Auto Wrecking had had all the necessary permits to store Aurora Fireworks’ supply, the bullet that detonated $50,000 worth of fireworks may have never happened.

Early Monday morning, the owner of the wrecking yard was showing his daughter the new high-caliber rifle he recently bought, according to the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.The two were legally shooting the .308 rifle in their yard when a stray bullet penetrated the steel shipping container, setting off the fireworks for Poulsbo’s 3rd of July, Bainbridge Island’s 4th of July, and Silverdale’s Whaling Days celebratory shows.

Aurora Fireworks owner Robert Nitz was storing the fireworks at the private wrecking yard. Mason County Fire Chief Beau Bakken said his county’s permit process would have ensured the pyrotechnics were stored in a bullet-proof container.

Bakken said Thursday the property owner and Nitz had the proper pyrotechnic permits with state and federal agencies, but the property owner failed to obtain the appropriate Mason County permit.

Despite the permitting issue, Mason County Sheriff Chief Deputy Dean Byrd said there is no indication a crime was committed. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating the incident.

Because of fast action by Nitz, more fireworks have been obtained and Poulsbo’s 3rd of July celebration is “going forward with a full firework show,” said the festival’s organizer, Ron Krell of Viking Fest Corp.

However, Nitz has to replace the stock at a higher retail price — and from his own pocket. As a result, this incident may mean the end of his business. Purchasing the same amount of fireworks, many bought at wholesale price from China, will now cost around $80,000.

“It’s devastating,” Nitz said. He has been the supplier for Poulsbo’s celebration since 2009.

Nitz found an alternative supplier Monday morning in Chehalis to cover the inventory for Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island. However, his liability insurance will not cover the cost to replace the three shows’ fireworks. He said the wrecking yard owner was not doing anything wrong by shooting on his personal property, but showed a “terrible lapse in judgement.” He declined to say whether he would sue for damages.

“I’m not concerned about that, I’m only concerned with putting the shows on at this point,” he said.

Nitz is Silverdale branch manager for PrimeLending, a mortgage lender. He showed a passion for pyrotechnics at a young age, and became licensed to supply and handle fireworks in 2008. He founded Aurora Fireworks as a side business because he enjoyed putting on the public shows.

“I was getting to the point where it was starting to look like I’d make some money,” he said. “It’s probably not going to be a company after this.”

Krell said anyone who wants to donate to help Nitz cover the cost of the fireworks can contact Viking Fest Corporation, info@vikingfest.org.

The 3rd of July celebration begins at noon at Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park, and will include live entertainment, food vendors, a stand-up paddleboard race and the live fireworks show over Liberty Bay at 10:15 p.m. The fireworks were funded by a $7,500 grant from Port Madison Enterprises and a $10,000 donation from Dean Church of Liberty Bay Auto Center.

 

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