Residents of Sneads Ferry don't take their fireworks lightly. "We need fireworks for all the businesses around here and to bring people in," said Steve Walker, a longtime Sneads Ferry resident. "This is part of what they depend on." Fireworks have drawn large crowds to the town's popular summertime July Fourth and Shrimp festivals for the past six years. But Hale Artificier Fireworks, Inc., the company that's been shooting them, backed out this year citing disagreements with town fire chief Michael Gallagher. "[It's] because I'm advising them that what they're doing is unsafe and they haven't done anything about it," Gallagher said. Gallagher is concerned that spectators sit too close to where the fireworks are set off. He also says in years past he's found left-over fireworks containing gunpowder and other flammable material left on the site. He says overall, Hale Fireworks has not taken necessary safety precautions. In a letter to the Sneads Ferry Community Council the company called Gallagher, "a real thorn." Gallagher says he's just looking after the community's best interests. "If they have an injury and they get sued, they're not going to have it to do anymore," he said. But members of the council say they aren't concerned about safety. "It's no question it's a safe venue," said Council Chairman Tim Supple. "If it wasn't then the county wouldn't give us a permit." Supple says the town and fireworks company have followed all proper procedures. He pointed out safe zone markers on festival grounds, which he says were put in by county inspectors. "We're all trying to keep things safe," Supple said. "We bend over backwards to expand the safety radius." Council members are now trying to keep the fireworks shows alive. They say Gallagher hasn't yet voiced his concerns directly to them. Gallagher plans to file a complaint with the federal board of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Supple said the Council is currently working with another fireworks company to shoot at both summer festivals. He says they have until the end of the month to get the permits for fireworks at the Fourth of July festival.
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