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Great balls of fire! What happened at Burnaby's Canada Day fireworks show?

A fireball that exploded at the end of the Canada Day fireworks display at Central Park on Saturday had some people worried, but Celebration Fireworks says the effect was all part of the show's finale.
The 'gas bomb' is set off for the finale of Burnaby's StreetFest on Central Canada Day finale.

If you saw a giant fireball at the end of Burnaby’s Canada Day fireworks display at Central Park and thought something had gone wrong, you’re not alone.

Some of the 40,000 or so people who saw the pyrotechnics took to social media after the display to express their concern.

“Was filming from my balcony and caught the explosion right at the end. Is everyone OK? Not sure what happened,” one person posted on Reddit.

“There was a huge fireball, and I felt the heat across Kingsway,” said another Redditor. “I’m thinking that can’t be normal.”

A Burnaby fire captain at the scene was also taken aback by the explosion.

Capt. Satinder Mann was in charge of two fire trucks at the park for fire safety and in case of medical emergencies.

He was about 500 feet away when the fireball went off.

“Most of those explosions were happening in the sky, but the final one was closer to the ground,” he told the NOW. “That, all of a sudden, seemed like it was a little different. It was unusual.”

He approached the fireworks crew after the show and asked if anything had gone wrong, but they told him everything had gone exactly as planned.

The fireball was part of the show’s grand finale.

The fireworks provider, Celebration Fireworks, uses the same effect at the end of the last game of every Vancouver Canadians season, according to owner Jonathan Sedman.

Folks in the industry call it by a number of different names, including “gas bomb” and “gas mortar.”

“It’s been around for a while, but it’s finally starting to get out,” Sedman said. “It’s basically just gas that’s put into a specially designed tube. There’s obviously a little bit more involved, but, basically, it’s just lit and makes a big mushroom cloud.”

The reason the company used the gas bomb as a finale has to do with the size of the venue in Central Park, according to Sedman.

The limited clearance available for fallout, meant they weren’t allowed to use the big commercial fireworks they might use for a finale if they were setting them off on, say, a barge far away from any spectators.

“That makes it very tough to come up with a finale,” Sedman said. “So we use the gas bombs or the gas mortars or whatever you want to call them as a way to end the show because, boom!, one big final explosion and it’s over with.”

Sedman said the city knew about the plan.

City of Burnaby communications manager Chris Bryan said the show was “planned, controlled and permitted by the fire chief.”

“I can see why people think something happened, but we’re professionals,” Sedman said. “We calculate everything down to the last T.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the fireworks display was in Swangard Stadium. That is incorrect. The correct venue was Central Park.