Legislation could limit hours for fireworks in unincorporated parts of Harris County

HB 1183 could give county commissioners the power to set hours for fireworks use.

HB 1183 could give county commissioners the power to set hours for fireworks use.

Rep. Kevin Roberts, R-Spring is taking aim at what he calls a major quality of life issue in his district with House Bill 1183, which would give county commissioners the power to dictate the hours in which fireworks can be discharged.

The bill will receive a public hearing in Austin on Thursday.

A total of 98 percent of District 126 is located in unincorporated Harris County.

Roberts said because unincorporated areas lack a governing body that can restrict fireworks use, residents have no recourse when there is a noise disturbance.

“Imagine if you owned your home for two decades, then a neighbor, who could be an event center, decides to host a fireworks show at their home that lasts past midnight,” Roberts said. “Now imagine the frustration in trying to sleep through these firework shows, with no way of addressing the issue.”

Roberts said the bill is aimed at regulating the hours of use and not restricting the sale or general use of fireworks.

Northwest Houston Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Thomason said many residents are frustrated by disturbance when fireworks are discharged near residential neighborhoods.

“This one I’m truly in favor of,” Thomason said of the bill. “It doesn’t do anything to fireworks other than to give the county commissioners the ability to regulate them.”

The previous District 126 representative, Patricia Harless, had advanced legislation in 2015—HB 152—that proposed allowing county commissioners to hold an election on whether the commissioners court should have the power to prohibit or regulate the sale of fireworks. That legislation was left pending in committee.

“A lot of residents, myself included, hate the noise, hate the mess and would just as soon have the option of seeing them regulated,” Thomason said.

Residents of some communities, such as the Champion Creek subdivision, said late-night fireworks have been disruptive.

“I am not against fireworks being discharged in Texas,” said Robby Wilburn, a member of the Champion Creek board of directors. “I am against the use of fireworks being discharged at all hours of the day, night and week near residential communities.”

Wilburn, who said his community’s proximity to an event center has resulted in disturbances from fireworks in the past, said unincorporated areas are in need of a form of regulation for fireworks outside of holiday celebrations.

The bill includes an exemption for holidays, such as New Year’s Eve and July 4, and would allow individuals to apply for an exemption.

Although the bill is aimed at giving counties the ability to regulate the hours during which fireworks are used, the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said compliance with all fire safety laws is important during fireworks season.

"Without question, fires and injuries increase with the misuse of fireworks," the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said in a statement. "The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office is monitoring all legislation relating to fireworks."

The Fire Marshal's Office encourages residents to report fires hazard by visiting www.hcfmo.net, calling (281) 999-2200 or emailing fmosupport@fmo.hctx.net.
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