Drought conditions and rising fire dangers have led McLennan County officials to ban the sale and use of skyrocket-type fireworks through Independence Day in unincorporated parts of the county.
Commissioners voted for the partial ban June 7 and will consider a countywide burn ban at its meeting next Tuesday that would ban all types of fireworks. Fireworks of all types remain illegal within the city limits of Waco and most other cities except for professional displays.
A 10-acre wildfire near Bellmead this week underscored the fire dangers under current weather conditions, with highs of 99 forecast for Friday and Saturday and 100 or above most of next week.
The Waco-McLennan County Office of Emergency Management will recommend the countywide burn ban, director Elizabeth Thomas said Thursday, noting the Bellmead fire and the Texas A&M Forest Service’s designation of much of the county being in drought stages 3 and 4.
Those stages yield much vegetation in a dry condition that readily provides fuel for fires, forest service spokesperson Kiley Moran said.
People are also reading…
“Even with the rain that we received in the last month the vegetation is still dry, and what did green up is becoming receptive to fire,” Moran said in a Thursday email to the Tribune-Herald. “With the high temperatures, low humidity, and high winds that we have been experiencing, the risk of a wildfire caused by fireworks is elevated.”
The Bellmead fire threatened 55 homes and consumed 10 acres before it was contained, Moran said in a Wednesday press release. The forest service contributed personnel, a bulldozer and a fire engine alongside “many other engines and support vehicles (and firefighters) on scene from Bellmead, Lacy Lakeview and Waco,” Moran wrote.
Thomas said that state law allows commissioners courts to make temporary fireworks bans like this one around holidays like Independence Day and New Year’s at which people often use consumer fireworks in their celebrations.
“Fireworks are great fun,” Thomas said. “Wildfires and brush fires, like the one Bellmead yesterday, are not.”
The temporary fireworks ban applies in unincorporated areas of the county to sale and any use of consumer fireworks that produce a stream of flame out of one end, often called ‘skyrockets,’ Thomas said, explaining the commissioners court order.
Small fireworks devices complying with the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations and classified as permissible under the Texas Occupations Code, remain allowed in unincorporated areas by the commissioners court’s June 7 order. These would, however, be forbidden under a burn ban, Thomas said.
In the past county burn bans have not affected the professional fireworks displays for the Fourth of July, since these are held in controlled areas, with fire department personnel onsite Waco spokesperson Monica Sedelmeier wrote in text message Thursday.
Representatives of major consumer fireworks vendor Mr. W Fireworks did not respond to the Tribune-Herald’s questions by phone call of how such bans on ‘skyrockets’ would affect their business.