I probably should have written this post a couple weeks ago to remind folks of this crucial safety task. After returning from watching the fireworks from our not so secret vantage point, a spot that allows people to watch the fireworks from Minneapolis as well as three other suburbs, I remembered that the 4th of July was also 'blow off expired flares' day. On the previous 4th of July a group of the usual suspects was on Rocky Island in the Apostles, watching the fireworks from towns up and down the north shore of Minnesota. At 20 to 40 miles away they were tiny and in our wilderness site on Rocky we felt that setting off aerial flares, even on the 4th of July, might not be the brightest idea. My driveway seemed to be the perfect spot however, and if the St Anthony cops stayed occupied elsewhere, I would be golden. The VOR wanted no part of the foolishness but relented because, after all, everyone loves explosives on some level.
I had a .666 success rate with the three flares I touched off. Since I did have the suspect Orion Skyblazer flares, I had heavy gloves and a wool hat to prevent any unwanted explosions. Why not just throw them away you ask? Its a guy thing. A few years back at the hunting camp, Pod and I were testing the new dog shock collar. He held it to his neck and I triggered the shock, which caused him to jump, curse,and nearly fall off his chair. I then took the collar, held it to my neck, and the same thing happened when he hit the switch. The GurneyGranny,watching this unfold, shook her head disgustedly and asked, "You just saw him almost fall off the chair when you hit the switch, why the hell did you let him do the same thing to you? Are you both idiots?". Nope, just guys; its a guy thing. None of the flares exploded and sent flaming red sulphur down my arm, so all was good there. The problem was that the first one I ignited just kind of plooped about 100' in the air and fell to earth on the nursing home lawn across the street and burned a 6" diameter circle in the grass. The next two did what they were supposed to do and arced high into the sky, 500' or so, and burned for the prescribed 6 seconds.
A secondary benefit of lighting the expired flares was that it allowed me to purchase the long coveted 12 gauge flare gun. I can't wait to fire these things off three years from now, assuming I don't need to use them for real. The only time I came close to using flares in an emergency was when GalwayGuy had some sort of food poisoning and was dehydrated to the point of hallucination (with kidney shutdown right around the corner). That time I used that other more reliable and effective safety device, the radio. As the Coast Guard headed for our location on the southeast corner of Oak Island they kept asking my position. I figured out later that there are probably some people who don't really know which island they were on and this Coast Guard crew had likely dealt with that. I told them I could see them heading right for me and that I was waving a yellow paddle float on the end of my paddle. I offered to pop a flare but they said they had me and GG was quickly floated out to the boat, pumped full of fluids, and whisked off to Ashland hospital. The VOR went with him so I was stuck on Oak Island with three boats, but that's another story.
Bring your flares, and bring your radio. Just last week a woman was evacuated from Otter Island by the Coast Guard after inadvertantly eating peanuts and going anaphylactic shock. Not good, but I can only assume that a radio call went out and that the Coast Guard got there in time. Anything can happen and it probably will so have your first aid kit, flares, and marine VHS/weather radio. As the title of this post, as well as our buddy Silbs says, paddle safe.