MANCHESTER — Bobby Walker said he grew up using fireworks to celebrate holidays and special occasions with his father. He will get a chance to do the same thing with his own son for the first time Tuesday.

“I wanted to wait until he was 10, like my dad did with me, before starting in with the fireworks,” said Walker, of Augusta, at Pyro City in Manchester Saturday afternoon. “If you are safe and use an abundance of caution, shooting fireworks can be a fun and exhilarating activity.”

For the last several days leading up to July Fourth Tuesday, the smallest of Pyro City’s seven stores has seen a steady stream of customers. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., including July 4, and warehouse manager Ian Marson expects it to stay busy the next few days.

“So far, our biggest seller is the buy one, get one offers,” Marson said. The store is allowing customers to mix-and-match from a selection of four, 500-gram cakes. “There’s some great varieties, including reds, greens, blues and golds.”

Walker said his family has been to local fireworks displays before and has even seen bigger shows at Walt Disney World in Florida, this will be the first time his son will have the opportunity to watch them in his backyard. As much as it’s about fun, Walker said, it’s about teaching him responsibility and safety.

“I’ve been showing him things and talking him through how each of the fireworks we have work and how to use them safely,” he said. “We don’t want to be one of those families that has an unfortunate incident with fireworks.”

Throughout Saturday afternoon, there was a steady stream of customers, including experienced pyrotechnics users and those just dabbling into fireworks for the very first time. A woman and her teenage son were checking out fireworks called “Black Magic,” “Friggin Awesome,” “Yeti” and “Publicity Stunt.”

Marson said this year is the first that the Pyro City chain is selling a Bluetooth enabled smart firework device called “FireFly.” Users can hook-up 15 fireworks to the device and control them using an app on a mobile device. He said it’ll even sync the fireworks to your music.

“It’s an awesome product and makes it so someone can safely have their own little fireworks show, with music, at home,” he said. The product sells for about $215, but it’s free with the purchase of $1,500 worth of fireworks.

Cindy Wagner and her husband Jim were browsing looking for some sparklers for their kids but for some louder, more exciting fireworks for their older family members, who were planning on celebrating at a lake house in Kennebec County. Jim Wagner suggested “The Godfather,” a 7-foot tall endless collection of fireworks that would take more than an hour to use. It sells for $500, which Cindy Wagner emphatically said they would not be spending.

“I’m all for having a good time, and our kids and family appreciate how much we spend to keep them entertained,” she said. “But c’mon, look at the size of this thing.”

Nationally, the fireworks industry is creeping closer to a billion-dollar industry. Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association in Maryland, said by email that the organization is expecting consumer fireworks sales to exceed $850 million this year.

Last year, sales estimates put the figure at $755 million, but the actual number was $825 million, $70 million more than was expected. It was the largest year-to-year gain in more than a decade.

“The increase in sales is tied to the trend in liberalizing state fireworks laws,” Heckman said by email. “We expect sales to be very strong because of the extended holiday weekend.”

State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said his office has been completing fireworks site inspections for the last few weeks. Several municipalities in the state have special restrictions on fireworks usage since their use became legal in 2012. Augusta, Wayne and Waterville ban them entirely.

The restrictions, which vary from town to town, include time and day of use, proximity of the fireworks to certain buildings and the amount of noise generated by the pyrotechnics.

Thomas encouraged people to check out the information on fireworks safety on the Fire Marshall’s Office website, and he said fireworks usage should be paired with the fire danger conditions as posted by the Maine Forest Service each day.

According to data from Maine Revenue Services, fireworks sales tax revenue and taxable sales increased by about 3.9 percent from 2015 to last year. Through April 2017, $245,284 worth of fireworks and related items were sold. Most sales occur in June and July, with those months accounting for 71.04 percent of all sales last year.

Marson said Pyro City stays open year-round, though they have reduced hours during the winter, because people enjoy using fireworks not just to celebrate Independence Day.

“We have folks coming in for Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, birthdays, graduations,” he said. “It doesn’t take much of an excuse to want to set off some fireworks.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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