WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A year after an arsonist set a spectacular fire at a Wyoming fireworks store, the owner of that shop says he is back and better than ever.
But while his business may be booming, there are still those who believe that the rockets’ red glare should go dark in Michigan.
For David Jewell, a former tool and die worker, spending his days selling fireworks is like every kids dream come true and there’s no greater time for a fireworks fan than the Fourth of July.
But on July 5 of last year that dream turned into something different. That was when an inferno at GS Fireworks on 44th Street near Burlingame Avenue occurred as the sun rose. The result was a series of explosions as the building burned down to the rafters.
Jewell got a call around 6:20 a.m. after staying up until 2 a.m. restocking his store after a busy Independence Day.
“I arrived at 6:30, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Pretty much thought it was a nightmare,” Jewell said at the store on Saturday as customers stocked up for the upcoming holiday. “The store was pretty much gone.”
WOOD TV8 app users can click here to watch the video of the fire.
The store was part of an arson spree undertaken by 34-year-old Casey George Marvin who also took responsibility for setting fires at a nearby apartment and home as well as stealing two cars and crashing one all in about a three block radius of the store. He pleaded no contest to charges and was sentenced in November to six to 20 years in prison.
At first, Jewell said he didn’t think six years was long enough. But by chance, Jewell was telling his story at another store and the cashier there was the arsonist’s daughter.
“She had tears in her eyes and she was pretty devastated that her dad did that. She apologized to me personally and I told her ‘I hope your dad can get his life back on track,” Jewell said.
For months, Jewell rebuilt the store himself — spending 12 hours a day, 7 days a week working on it.
“I got to lay things out the way I wanted and it really came together beautifully,” Jewell said.
Now he says business is better than ever.
“I love the loud booms, y’know, when you can feel them in your chest and you get those nice bright colors,” Jewell said.
But since state law was changed in 2011 to make the kind of fireworks Jewlell loves legal, there has been opposition. Every session of the state Legislature has had bills to rollback fireworks legalization, but none have passed — so far.
“Fireworks are as American as baseball and apple pie, it’s only a few days a year,” Jewell said.
Jewell says he also understands that for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, fireworks can be distressing. He says the real solution is making sure that veterans get the treatment they need and deserve.
The law now allows for fireworks on the day before and the say after any federal holiday — that includes Christmas, New Year’s Day and Labor Day.
City ordinances in Grand Rapids call for no fireworks between midnight and 8 a.m. In other cities, it is 1 a.m.
It is illegal for anyone younger than 18 to use fireworks. Fines for violations are as much as $500.
“Don’t drink while you’re doing fireworks, you got to have a clear head,” Jewell said.