Advisories released ahead of the holiday through Hays, Travis and Williamson counties all highlighted the importance of knowing and following local rules before lighting off any fireworks displays. While the sale, purchase and use of fireworks are all legal in Texas around holidays, including Independence Day, many local governments have their own restrictions. For example, selling and using fireworks within the city of Austin is illegal, and much of southern Williamson County is blanketed by fireworks buffer zones. Fireworks are also not permitted in any Hays, Travis or Williamson county parks. Residents may check with their fire department to confirm their municipality's rules.
"Officials believe the safest way to enjoy fireworks is by attending a professional fireworks display sponsored by various jurisdictions and organizations throughout the area. Consumer fireworks can be dangerous when used improperly and can cause serious burns and eye injuries. Always check with your local fire department/district for recommendations or suggested precautions to follow before deciding to use them," Williamson County said in a statement.
If residents are looking to set off their own firework displays, local counties advised that activities should always be overseen by adults and that both children and pets should be kept away from fireworks, including sparklers. The counties advise having water on hand in case of emergency and for soaking leftover fireworks, debris and "duds"—which should be left to sit for at least 20 minutes after malfunctioning, according to Williamson County.
Other recommended safety tips out of the three counties include the selection of a clear space to light off fireworks that is located away from residences, other people and dry materials; moving away from any fireworks that have been lit; and hiring professionals to assist with personal displays as possible.
More tips and information on each county's rules may be found through their fire marshal's offices.
Central Texas residents seeking to buy their own fireworks before July 4 may also run into limited options at regional stores. Firework sales for the Independence Day holiday opened June 24, and industry members have warned in recent weeks that pandemic-related supply chain issues have backed up some deliveries for weeks.
“Approximately 30% of the consumer fireworks needed for this Independence Day either didn’t make it out of China, are sitting on ocean vessels in the Pacific Ocean waiting to berth at the ports, or they’ve been sitting at the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for nine to 12 weeks waiting to be put on the rail,” Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, said in a June 28 statement. “Consumer fireworks, like many household consumer products, are caught up in the global supply chain disruption resulting from the pandemic."
While Heckman said some local retailers remained well stocked days ahead of the holiday, the American Fireworks Superstore located southeast of Austin warned on its seasonal opening day that it expected supply issues leading up to Independence Day as well.
“The fireworks shortage is real and we’re working 24 hours a day to get product out to our stores,” American Fireworks owner Chester Davis said in a statement. “The good news is we prepared early in anticipation of shipping delays and high demand again this year.”
While those supply chain issues may temper some consumer celebrations this summer, Davis and Heckman both said they expect to see high demand this week following a record-breaking 2020. According to data compiled by the national pyrotechnics association, fireworks industry revenues in the U.S. nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020, and total usage rose more than 48%.
Along with the uptick in displays last year, the fireworks industry association said it tracked a 7% increase in fireworks-related injuries. The organization urged consumers follow several personal safety measures such as choosing a hard and level surface for setting off any pyrotechnics and ensuring adult supervision; more recommendations from the association may be viewed here.
“While the fireworks-related injury rate remains relatively low, this is not the time to be lax about fireworks safety as we can always do more to reduce injuries associated with fireworks misuse,” Heckman said.