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Illegal Fireworks Factory Created With Internet Help

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - It’s no secret that fireworks are dangerous to set off, but it turns out they are even more dangerous to make.

A Wyoming man was severely burned while making illegal fireworks in a garage, according to Wyoming Fire Department Chief Paul Hoppe.

“From what we can tell, he was in the process of mixing some of the materials and it ignited what we call a flashover explosion,” Hoppe said.

Police say David Michael Walsh, Timothy Gray and a third man – who is in critical condition – were building homemade fireworks out of a home and a backyard shed in a property about 30 miles north of St. Paul in Wyoming. Walsh and Gray have both charged with possessing and storing an incendiary device.

And charges are pending for the unidentified third man, who suffered 1st- and 2nd-degree burns which cover 40 percent of his body.

The 911 call to help is what led investigators to find tables and rows full of black powder, saw dust and casings.

Officers say they soon realized it was an all-out homegrown firework-making operation.

“It’s not something that we typically run into on a day-to-day basis, so it is an unusual event,” Hoppe said.

And it’s not as complicated as you may think. The chief thinks they were using internet instruction, which is why they confiscated 12 computers.

Hoppe says the reason for the illegal fireworks black market is that making them the legal way requires permits and major regulation.

And making them in the midst of a neighborhood is very dangerous.

“A firework is really an explosive material compressed into tubes,” he said.

The black market is due to the illegality of explosive fireworks in the state, requiring a trip across the state border to purchase them.

Some of the explosive materials found by authorities included mortar-style aerial fireworks with barrels that are 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

Click here for a list of fireworks allowed in Minnesota.

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