Bits from the blast: Steamboat rugby club cleans debris from world-record firework |

Bits from the blast: Steamboat rugby club cleans debris from world-record firework

Ciara Anne, left, and Lizzy Kendall hold up the blown-up pieces of the world record-setting firework from the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival. The Steamboat Springs Rugby Club and its friends and family spent last Saturday cleaning Emerald Mountain of the debris and plans to clean more this weekend.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Members of the Steamboat Rugby Club are using their brawn for beauty in an effort to clean Emerald Mountain of the debris from the city’s record-setting firework. 

In February, as the finale of the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza, local fireworks guru Tim Borden launched the world’s largest shell, weighing nearly 2,800 pounds, which soared a mile into the air before exploding in a brilliant display of human engineering. 

The blast was so large, it turned the night sky red for a few seconds as the 62-inch shell burst into smithereens. Pieces from that and other fireworks, made mostly of cardboard and tape, showered to the ground, leaving bits of debris on the mountain. While the material is biodegradable and non-toxic, according to Borden, the rugby club has made a tradition of picking up the leftover pieces after each Winter Carnival. 

“Whenever Tim is letting off fireworks, we help in any way, shape or form we can,” said Julian Bristow, head of the rugby club.

Borden and Yampa Valley Bank have supported the local rugby club ever since its founding in 1971 through sponsorships and other assistance, according to Bristow.

“It’s a ‘thank you’ for everything they have done in the past,” Bristow said of the club’s clean-up efforts. 

The club also hosts the annual Cowpie Classic Rugby Tournament, which brings teams from across Colorado and the country to compete for the ultimate prize, an encased cow pie. 

Paula Silverman and her husband, Rick, parents of a Steamboat Springs rugby player, hold up a piece of an exploded firework shell they found on Emerald Mountain on Saturday.
Derek Maiolo

On Saturday, May 9, about 20 players from the team, along with some friends and family, cleaned the area around the mortar site above Howelsen Hill. It took about three hours for the group to scour a 1,000-foot radius of the launch site, placing pieces of the shell into trash bags. A few people hiked into the quarry, where they found larger bits of cardboard shrapnel that weighed about 10 pounds, Bristow said.

The firework pieces showed traces of their incendiary history, tinged with scorch marks and a lingering, smoky odor, which Bristow and his fellow players loaded into their vehicles.

“My car smelled like someone had been smoking in there,” Bristow said.

By the end of the day, the group collected enough debris and other random trash, such as beer cans and bullet casings, to halfway fill a commercial-sized dumpster. 

“They got a lot of the really big pieces, so that was great,” said Jenny Carey, open space and trails supervisor for Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation.

The team plans to return to Emerald Mountain on Saturday to clean any remaining debris. Bristow is working with Park and Recreation to identify any large pieces people might find as they travel the various multi-use trails. 

Parks and Recreation also plans to organize a group of volunteers later in the month to pick up smaller debris along the Lupine and Morning Gloria multi-use trails on Emerald Mountain, Carey said. To volunteer, call the department at 970-879-4300.

The Parks and Recreation department requests that anyone who finds pieces of fireworks at and around Emerald Mountain note the location and tell the department. The information helps fireworks crews get a better understanding of the fallout from the explosions to help plan safer shows in the future.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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