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Whitlock on Olympic fireworks squad

January 15, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

An El Centro firefighter is going to have a chance to watch the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics from nearly any spot he wishes in Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium.

He may even find himself perched above all other spectators.

But Chad Whitlock, who has been with the El Centro Fire Department for 11 years, will not just be watching the opening ceremonies. He will be there to work.

Whitlock, 31, has been selected to serve on the pyrotechnic team in charge of the fireworks during the opening ceremonies and throughout the Olympics.

He will leave for Salt Lake City on Jan. 28 and remain there until Feb. 10. He may be called back to handle the fireworks show for the closing ceremonies Feb. 28.

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Whitlock said Monday he is looking forward to providing the fireworks display for the Olympics.

"It's pretty cool," said Whitlock, an engineer for the Fire Department. "I was happy to be picked."

Whitlock, a California-licensed pyrotechnician for four years, is part of a company called Pyro Spectacular selected for the fireworks show. Whitlock was chosen as part of a 100-member team from the company to do the work.

Whitlock said he'll be working in weather conditions where the high temperature is 18 degrees. He said for a guy used to wearing shorts that will be tough. He joked he still plans to wear shorts.

He said the cost of the flight to Utah is covered as part of the contract. However, he doesn't like to fly so he plans to drive to the Olympics. If called back to handle the closing ceremonies he would have to take a flight to Salt Lake City.

For Whitlock, taking part in the Olympics will be the biggest fireworks project in which he has taken part. He worked on the fireworks show for the 1998 Super Bowl in San Diego and more recently worked on the fireworks display for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. He also will take part in the display for the 2003 Super Bowl.

Whitlock said working as a pyrotechnician comes naturally. He grew up seeing his father, Chuck, work as a pyrotechnician.

Whitlock worked alongside his father on fireworks displays from the time he turned 18. He still works with his father at times.

Whitlock joked he was around the profession before he was of legal age.

When asked if he feels proud to be carrying on a family tradition, Whitlock said he is proud both because his father is a pyrotechnician and because his father was a firefighter in Lakeside for 35 years.

Whitlock said he is proud the Olympics are happening in the United States in the country in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the nation. He said the Olympics will keep people focused on the need to remain united and on remembering what occurred Sept. 11.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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