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Punishment Levied for Unexploded Firework Shells

The man who has run Wilmington's fireworks show for more than a decade received a six month suspended license from the Massachusetts Fire Marshal.

After and several other communities, the man who runs the town’s annual display reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Fire Marshal on his punishment.

Tony Gentile, a Newton resident, will have his fireworks license suspended for six months followed by a six-month probationary period after reaching a settlement prior to his scheduled July 31 administrative hearing.

In addition, Pyrotecnico, the company that distributed the fireworks to Gentile, is slated for a hearing next week.

“I can only say that the town’s experience with Mr. Gentile over the years has been positive,” said Town Manager Michael Caira. “That said, obviously something went terribly wrong in a number of communities. I certainly support whatever decision the Fire Marshal makes because it’s made on behalf of the public.”

Fourth of July Committee chairman Scott Garrant declined comment for the time being since he has not yet spoken with Gentile directly after the decision was made.

Garrant is responsible for hiring the fireworks operator each year. Caira said he believes Gentile would still be eligible to be considered for next year’s display if Garrant and Fire Chief Ed Bradbury determines him to be acceptable.

“I don’t want to pre-judge what the Fire Chief would do, but he would likely look at a recommendation from the Fire Marshal along with Mr. Gentile’s body of work,” said Caira.

Fire Lt. Dan Hurley is responsible for monitoring the set up () and firing off of the pyrotechnics each year, and he was the one who discovered the unexploded shells after Gentile and his crew had packed up and left town.

According to Hurley, he was walking around the football field when he stepped on something about the size of the tennis ball. Hurley said he couldn’t see what he had stepped on until he looked closely.

“He should have found them according to the code, and that’s what he was punished for,” said Hurley. “This happened a lot of shows that were put on by Pyrotecnico because they had some shells that didn’t ignite. I believe it was an isolated incident because the product was defective, though it didn’t made it any better that he didn’t find the shells.”

Caira said the town, and others in the area, were fortunate, and should learn from the incident in the future.

“What happened was disconcerting,” said Caira. “But there was nothing that ended up causing a problem for the town. But certainly it would give one pause in terms of how we go about shooting fireworks in the future, where they should be shot from, and who it is that should be operating them. It’s a good lesson for all communities. We’ve looked at it, had meetings about it, and we’ll take steps to tighten control."

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