Stadium Fireworks Display Draws D.C. Fire Chief's Attention

D.C. Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin talks about his decision to ban fireworks from Nationals Park after paper debris fell on him.
By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fireworks go off at Nationals Park at the drop of a bat: for the national anthem, a home run, after a win and every Friday. The display is meant to add some cheer and bursts of color to the game.

But on Sunday night, just before the Nats were drubbed by the New York Mets, a fan in Section 130, near home plate, felt paper debris fluttering down on him and his grandson. The fan was none other than D.C. Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, who marched over to the stadium's fire operations center and issued an order: No more fireworks.

By yesterday afternoon, the ban was lifted.

After meeting with fire officials, the team agreed to change the direction in which the fireworks are set off and the content of the explosives and make other adjustments, fire spokesman Alan Etter said.

There was no game last night, so the brief ban never played out.

Many people think shooting off fireworks near large crowds is potentially dangerous.

Last week, two families sued Vienna in Fairfax County over a 2007 incident in which a shell rocketed into a crowd and seriously injured a group of spectators.

Rubin said that last year a fan was injured at Nationals Park after being hit by falling cinder.

Fans say fireworks fallout is fairly common.

Mark Hornbaker of Poolesville said inch-long pieces of paper ash often fell onto his shoulder in his seat in Section 225. "Last year, I can remember at least a dozen times where we got ash on us," he said. "I might not even be able to say ash. It was more paper than anything else. But we knew where it was coming from."

But he still likes the fireworks.

"I don't think they should stop it," he said. "But it's a tough one. I don't know how you shoot them off without that happening. But if you were sitting there with a white shirt and got a half-inch of ash on you, you probably wouldn't like it."

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