THE FULL CREW
Meet the Makers
If you’re looking for advice about gasoline fireballs, then go to our pyro world’s “Dear Abby” for guidance. You have questions? Bill has answers.
Bill Corbett | Memphis, Tennessee
Driving with his wife and kids to a Fourth of July family celebration in 2002, Bill saw a massive trailer emblazoned with “Pyrotechnics Productions” and a 1-800 number. That’s when Bill—who was overstressed from working two jobs—said a light bulb went off. He called to ask if they needed help (they did), so he joined the company at a dirt track racing event the very next weekend…and the weekend after that…and the weekend after that. The excitement “hit me like a nuclear bomb and I said ‘this is it.’”
Bill then became even more serious about pyrotechnics and reached out to High Tech Special Effects (www.hightechspecialeffects.com) that was literally located down the street in his very small town of Bartlett, Tenn. High Tech—which creates year-round indoor and outdoor fireworks events all over the country—hired Bill on a part-time basis. And the rest is…well, it is definitely history.
A self-described workaholic, Bill is both a full-time boiler plant operator at a Memphis hospital and remains a part-timer at High Tech. He’s as modest as it comes regarding his experience (17 years of building industrial-grade fireballs) and his know-how (he and his posse of Fireball Dudes hold the world record for their signature gasoline fireballs.)
Bill joins the Missouri Pyrotechnics Association at Pyromania (from the creators of Sky Wars) nearly every year to be a big part of the fantastic event. What started as the Fireball Dudes serving as a filler between the crafted pyromusicals has evolved into one of the most popular crowd pleasers in the evening’s lineup…even if Bill poo-poos the praise. Case in point: pyros travel from across the country to be a part of his crew and their world. Think of the Fireball Dudes as The Beatles of the rock world, the Babe Ruth of the baseball scene, and the Wolfgang Puck of all fine chefs. You get the point. Absolutely H-U-G-E!
According to Bill, everything they do is on a grand scale including bigger mortars (their largest mortars hold 33 gallons of gas) and more gas (most shoot one to five-gallon fireballs and maybe five or six at one time; Bill’s crew shoots 500 to 1,000+ gallons.) The Fireball Dudes (Bill emphasizes everything they do is a group effort and, if not for everyone’s hard work and dedication, the Dudes’ shows would be duds) are fireball favorites thanks to their well-known countdown-from-the-crowd and chilling voice overs describing what’s about to happen. This year they plan to shoot one of their famous Super Nukes, which is comprised of approximately 70 pounds of black powder, 250 pounds of powdered coffee creamer, and 550 gallons of gasoline. The resulting two separate explosions—first the creamer and next the gas—cost a total of $2,500 to $3,000. KaBOOM!
Bill’s Advice for Aspiring Pyros
“Join the closest fireworks club you can. I belong to four in four different states since Memphis does not have one. Clubs help you become more creative than most firework businesses.”