A professional-type fireworks mortar about the size of a baseball was the source of the explosion that killed a Richland man Wednesday night.
John Scott Anderson, 61, was declared dead shortly after emergency responders arrived at his home on Gala Way near Westcliffe Boulevard in south Richland. He was lighting fireworks in front of family and neighbors at the time of the accident.
Benton County Coroner John Hansens said Anderson suffered injuries to his head and chest.
Fire and police officials said it was a particularly loud Independence Day in the Tri-Cities, with more people seeming to use powerful and prohibited airborne fireworks.
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But the area was spared from a spike in fires because of high humidity and low nighttime temperatures, authorities said.
Officials said they don't anticipate the Richland incident will prompt a change in regulations in the Tri-Cities for fireworks, but the death illustrates the increasingly dangerous nature of fireworks.
"People need to regulate themselves more on this," said Richland Fire Chief Grant Baynes.
Richland police and medical crews were called to Anderson's home at 1611 Gala Way just before 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Hansens said Anderson reportedly lit or attempted to light the 3-inch-diameter mortar, but it didn't launch.
"Our understanding was that he went to check the mortar tube and it exploded," Hansens said.
Anderson's death is the third in the Tri-Cities related to fireworks in several decades.
A baby was killed in an apartment fire caused by fireworks in the late 1980s, and a firefighter died in 1993 while responding to a fireworks-caused fire when a fire truck rolled over.
After Wednesday's accident, the Richland Police Department's bomb squad is investigating where the mortar that killed Anderson was purchased.
Airborne fireworks aren't allowed in Richland, and all fireworks are banned outright in Kennewick, but Kennewick Fire Marshal Mark Yaden said the device might not have been legal even under state laws.
Authorities said they increasingly have found fireworks being sold with strong charges, incorrect labeling and improper fuses -- concealing how powerful they actually are.
"Many things are on the market out there that aren't safe," Yaden said.
Yaden said there was more airborne-fireworks activity in Columbia Park than usual Wednesday night, and Baynes noted the power of the illegal mortars being fired near his home.
"It felt like the house was shaking," he said.
Baynes and Yaden said there's always a risk of injury when something explosive is involved, and urged people to go see a professional fireworks show rather than set off their own.
However, Baynes said he doesn't anticipate Richland changing its fireworks laws because of the emotional pull they have for many residents.
"The responsibility is on the citizens," he said.