The fireworks display that went off without a hitch Monday night in Portsmouth was launched by the same crew that fired off Dover's display, which ended abruptly on Sunday night.

The display in Dover launched from Garrison Hill Park on Sunday night and ended about 15 minutes into the show when one of the six-inch shells failed to completely launch, according to city officials.  It fell back to the ground, setting other fireworks on the ground on fire and causing an explosion

Atlas PyroVision Entertainment of Jaffrey was hired for both displays, according to company vice president Matt Shea.

"The success of the failure is that nobody was injured, everybody was safe. That success is because Atlas and the fireworks industry as a whole has over the past 20-25 years has really taken steps to ensure that both public safety and the technicians are safe and trained well," Shea told Seacoast Current.

He said electronic firing is nearly the norm and required in some states. Atlas has been firing electronically from trailers for over 20 years, according to Shea, who said crew members were about 100 feet away from the actual shells in Dover.

"20 to 25 years ago the crew who would have been shooting a show that had that happen to them (in Dover) would not have been going onto shoot another show the next day, if they were lucky they would still be alive," Shea said.

Technicians are licensed in New Hampshire and are always learning, according to Shea. Crew members assigned to a show the size of Dover and Portsmouth's have at least 10 years of experience.

Shea said Atlas will meet with the state fire marshal's office and will look at the night's events overall.

"If we have to make improvements we will. There's always little improvements a business and a company has to make. That's how you move forward and continue to be safe," Shea said.

Burn mark in the grass at Garrison Hill Park in Dover after fireworks explosion, piece of debris
Burn mark in the grass at Garrison Hill Park in Dover after fireworks explosion, piece of debris (Shawn Olsten, Townsquare Media)

Dover Recreation Director Gary Bannon said he was also meeting with Atlas on Tuesday.

"We're still doing our reporting and insurance information and documenting what happened," Bannon told Seacoast Current.

The park was closed on Monday morning as firefighters looked for debris that scattered around the park and on top of the water tower.  After reopening Monday afternoon, burned grass and a few pieces of debris still remained.

No one was injured in the incident, according to Bannon. No spectators were in the park itself for the display which featured fireworks shot higher into the air so it could be seen from all around the surrounding area.

Portsmouth's display, which had been postponed from Friday because of rain, seemed to be a success.

"Everything went fine. The show lasted about 22 minutes, it was a terrific display," city spokeswoman Stephanie Seacord told Seacoast Current.

Descriptions like "amazing," "best ever" and "spectacular" were used in the comment section of the City of Portsmouth Facebook page.

Photographer Shawn St.Hilare told Seacoast Current that to him they were over the top.

"It was insane. It was probably one of the best grand finales I've ever seen. I think they probably did roll in some fireworks from last year into this year. Or at least they seemed that way," St.Hilare said.


Portsmouth fireworks looking up Chestnut St. by the Music Hall
Portsmouth fireworks looking up Chestnut St. by the Music Hall (Shawn St.Hilaire)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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