Photos by RON BASELICE/DMNThe 'Rangers and Outlaws' show at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington ends with a bang thanks to Cliff McClelland, lead pyrotechnician. Though the job has its challenges, 'it's all worth it when everything blows up right,' he said.

Whether he's watching sticks of dynamite explode just a few feet away, or making audience members shield themselves from flames or dodge a volley of machine gun bullets, Mr. McClelland's job is to bring Six Flags Over Texas' "Rangers and Outlaws" show to life.

During the school year, Mr. McClelland is the Richardson High School theater director. This is the fifth summer he's spent "blowing stuff up" at the amusement park in Arlington.

Stunt actors are the heart of the production, but the special effects - including water cannons, an avalanche of rocks and pyrotechnic devices such as red stars and sparkling mines - make the show pop.

Director and producer Robert Keith said that spectacular special effects in movies set the bar high for live-action shows such as those at Six Flags.

From a room overlooking the bleacher seats, Mr. McClelland watches to make sure the effects line up with the action during the show, and readies each POW! BOOM! and BANG! using an electronic control board.

Before each show, Mr. McClelland, 41, can be seen climbing all over the set, setting the pyrotechnic charges. His job requires two state-issued licenses, one for flame effects and one for special effects.

In one scene, a magician is in front of a cauldron that has "some glowing fiery stuff in it," so Mr. McClelland went to buy pyrotechnic supplies.

"He would tell us, 'Come see what I can do!' " the Dallas resident said. Richardson audiences are always impressed by the pyrotechnics in Mr. McClelland's shows, Ms. Brohard added.

"But once we got all the fire officials involved and it was all very professional, there were no problems," said Mr. DeVoll, who is now an assistant superintendent. "And they added a lot to the productions."

The huge bursts of flames "are my favorite part," Ms. Brohard said. "It's so multidimensional. You see, hear and smell [the fire] before you feel it."

Mr. McClelland tweaks the show throughout the summer to make the fight scenes more realistic, and he isn't afraid to use his pyrotechnic skill to help create opportunities for improvisation.

Recently, when his exploding charge sent an avalanche of synthetic rocks down the side of the stage's silver mine, Mr. McClelland delighted at timing the charge just right so that one rock hit an actor squarely on the head.

"With the sand and metal bleachers, it's 10 degrees hotter here than the rest of the park," Mr. McClelland said, his shirt soaked through after just the first show of the day. "But it's all worth it when everything blows up right."

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