Under state law, county commissioners courts may prohibit or limit the use of restricted fireworks, missiles with fins and skyrockets with sticks within unincorporated areas if the county’s average Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is at 575 or above by June 15.
While the Hays County Commissioners Court voted to ban the sale of restricted fireworks at its June 7 meeting, Travis and Williamson counties have taken alternative measures, forming agreements with Central Texas fireworks distributors to stop the sale of restricted products.
Additionally, many cities have their own ordinances regulating or prohibiting fireworks. The July Fourth selling season begn June 24 and ends at midnight on the holiday.
At the July 14 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting, the average KBDI was 536, according to Travis County Fire Marshal Tony Callaway.
Unable to implement fireworks restrictions for this year’s season, Callaway has made agreements with the Texas Pyrotechnics Association and American Fireworks company to stop the sale of restricted fireworks, stick rockets and missiles with fins or rudders.
“The TPA wants to foster a strong relationship with local fire officials to ensure we all have a safe Fourth of July fireworks season,” said Chester Davis, American Fireworks owner and Texas Pyrotechnic Association president. “Due to their unique design, sticks and fin items are the most likely to pose a fire danger.”
The Texas Pyrotechnics Association accounts for 80% of Central Texas fireworks distributors, and American Fireworks is the largest distributor in Travis County, Davis said. Although the agreement is not legally binding, Davis said he’s seen total compliance from all fireworks distributors, both members and nonmembers of the Texas Pyrotechnics Association.
“While the voluntary move by local fireworks retailers to not sell certain aerial products is a step in the right direction, we still need the public to do its part,” Callaway said in a press release. “I urge everyone to save their fireworks for a later date when conditions improve and instead attend one of the many professional fireworks shows held within the area.”
Travis County Emergency Service Districts will bring in additional staff for the holiday weekend, said Hector Nieto, Travis County Commissioners Court public information officer.
“Our Emergency Services Districts are doing everything they can to prepare for the holiday weekend, but they need the community’s help,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said in a press release. “I urge everyone to be mindful when celebrating with fireworks this holiday. All it takes is one small spark to start a wildfire that can quickly get out of control.”
Travis County has been under a burn ban since June 7, and as of June 19, the county had an average KBDI of 562.
“Current dry conditions are having an impact on the risk of wildfire within Travis County,” said Ken Bailey, fire chief for ESD 11, in a press release June 29. “There has been a 73% increase in wildfire activity this last week compared to the prior week.”
On June 21, the Williamson County Commissioners Court implemented a burn ban as drought conditions worsened with a KBDI of 603.
The Texas Pyrotechnics Association and American Fireworks have also come to an agreement with Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell to ban the sale of restricted fireworks in Williamson County this season, however the commissioners court has not voted to officially ban the products.
The county has also posted fireworks safety tips and an interactive map detailing further restrictions by the cities.
On June 7, the Hays County Commissioners Court voted to ban restricted fireworks in unincorporated areas. While the KBDI was 536, Hays County Fire Marshal Mark Wobus said he expected that number to jump to 575 or above by June 15.
The average KBDI for Hays County was 612 on June 15. While it has decreased to 572 as of June 29, restrictions remain in place. The county is also under a burn ban.
“Have a water source nearby in case it’s needed,” Wobus said in a press release. “Pay attention to where the fireworks go and where the debris lands. Our conditions are dry, so be extra cautious.”
Visit the Hays County website for fireworks safety tips.