Fireworks burner

The Ottumwa Fire Department, working with hotel Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, contracted with Bulldog Manufacturing at Ottumwa High School to construct this fireworks burner. OFD has already put the device to use.

Photo provided

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Fire Department and Ottumwa High School Bulldog manufacturing have worked together to fill a regional need.

“We were working with the state fire marshal and decided we could use something like that in the area for a regional use,” said Cory Benge, deputy chief and fire marshal with OFD, of the fireworks burner.

Brett Graham, instructor of the program at OHS, was then contacted about the project. “He went above and beyond our expectations,” Benge said.”It was going really fast and good until school was dismissed.”

“The project was a great opportunity for the students who were able to start it,” said Graham. “They had the frames built and ready for sides to be attached before spring break. With the virus and shutdown, they were not able to see it through. The instructors in the department got together to finish it.”

Benge said the project took about six weeks, start to finish, and OFD will be reimbursed by the state for the materials used in construction. “It wouldn’t have been that long without the virus stuff,” he said. “It threw a wrench into our plan when school was dismissed, but the teachers went in and finished it for us, so it worked out good.”

He described the project as a dumpster-type device with special protection around it to let air flow in without letting the fireworks out. “It’s kind of a fancy burn barrel,” he said.

Then, when the department has a pile of fireworks to destroy, they burn a fire in the incinerator with the fireworks inside to destroy them.

“Since the inception of the legalization of consumer fireworks in the State of Iowa, law enforcement officers throughout the state have seized countless pounds of fireworks that were illegally obtained, sold or used,” wrote Iowa Fire Marshal Dan Wood to Graham. “Unfortunately, the burden of properly disposing of these fireworks falls on the Special Agents/Bomb Technicians with the Iowa State Fire Marshal Division.

Benge said fireworks confiscation has actually been down in the community because of how Ottumwa’s ordinance was written. “We used to dispose of more when they weren’t legal. That’s why it became a regional thing” intended to serve a large section of southeast Iowa. He said before the new laws, anytime someone had fireworks they were able to confiscate them since all fireworks were illegal.

“It’s a little more complicated now,” he said. They confiscate if a minor is in possession or if they were bought illegally or used in an illegal manner.

That doesn’t mean the device won’t get good use. Benge said the department used the incinerator the other day with three separate burns due to the amount the department had to dispose of. “We usually wait until we have a considerable amount, about at pickup truck load, until we burn,” he said.

“There are multiple ways to dispose of fireworks, but the safest of all is to burn them in a properly constructed container,” wrote Wood. “Thanks to you and your students’ help, this process will be easily completed by using the newly constructed burner.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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