At 8:45 am, a series of fires and 3 explosions broke out at a 10-ha fireworks storage site. A technician withdrew a series of electric detonators on fireworks ground packs, then a second technician sorted these detonators by colour for the purpose of reusing them during a subsequent fireworks display. As part of this manipulation, he placed a round of fireworks on a wooden bench, which triggered a reaction (due perhaps to the presence of a pyrotechnic compound between the paper and the carton packaging following removal of the fusehead?): a firework was launched and caused ignition of 25 other charges contained in the pack, and then at greater frequency the reaction of fireworks present in the shop area. The two technicians onsite left the premises, found shelter and notified the emergency services.

The flashes of flames reached a first container, at a distance of 16 m, which exploded and in turn caused 3 other containers to ignite, 2 of which triggered the detonation 10 minutes later.

The level of property damage was significant: the site was totally destroyed, including: 3 storage magazines, 4 steel freight containers, 2 workstations, 1 caravan, and several vehicles. Two dwellings located 300 m away were heavily damaged as well, and 38 other houses sustained minor damage. Metal debris from the mass explosion of 2 containers was strewn over a 400-m radius, with some pieces recovered up to 530 m from the blast site. The flashes of flames and projection of debris also started several brush fires. Despite the violence of these fires and explosions, no injuries were reported.

The investigation underscored the importance of better identifying the explosion risk inherent in certain fireworks under given conditions (e.g. confinement), in addition to: respecting safety distances between magazine storage sites, evaluating “relay effect” risks, adopting good storage practices (e.g. removal of all unnecessary combustibles) and, lastly, separating assembly zones from storage facilities. Moreover, Australian regulations concerning fireworks were reinforced.

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