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Throwback Video: San Diego’s entire fireworks show set off at once in 15-second explosion

Fourth of July fireworks. (Erik Drost/WikiCommons)
July 05, 2022

For nearly 250 years, the United States has celebrated Independence Day with barbeques, parades, and of course, fireworks. Unlike Americans, however, not all fireworks displays are created equal – a lesson that was learned the hard way by the city of San Diego, Calif., in 2012, when officials accidentally set off hundreds of fireworks at the same time.

Video of the incident shows hundreds of fireworks exploding in unison before bursting over the bay in a massive ball of smoke that lit up the sky. What was supposed to be a 15-minute display ended in roughly 30 seconds. According to NBC 7, the malfunction was the result of a computer glitch.

“Happy 10-year anniversary to the greatest fireworks show in history, when San Diego accidentally shot off 7,000 fireworks at once,” writer Chris Vannini tweeted.

Shortly after the show went up in flames, Garden State Fireworks co-owner August Santore apologized for the mishap, asserting that his company took “100 percent responsibility” for the computer error.

One year after the Big Bay Boom spectacularly failed for the first time in the tradition’s history, Garden State Fireworks offered to do the show again for free — a value of $125,000 at the time, NBC News reported.

“The problem was a millisecond instruction that you couldn’t see with the naked eye,” Santore said, explaining what went wrong in 2012.

Santore said the experience made him realize how sensitive technology can be.

“We saw the power go out at the Super Bowl. … Cellphones still drop out every day, and the cellphone has been around for 20 years,” he said. “We have to become more adept at computer troubleshooting than we would otherwise have to be. We’re always at the edge.”

The Port of San Diego canceled the fireworks display in 2020 citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The city brought back the Independence Day fireworks display in 2021, but this year’s show had a special element: during the Big Bay Boom broadcast, one U.S. military service member became a citizen of the United States, according to Fox 5.

After moving to the United States from the Philippines in 2010, Navy Petty Officer Third Class Norie Francisco Roberson, based out of Naval Base San Diego, took her Oath of Allegiance Monday night.

“I really enlist because I wanted to provide a good future for my family and, at the same time, a career that my family will be proud of,” Roberson said.

Roberson said she was “speechless” when she officially became a U.S. citizen.