Travis County extends burn ban, considers fireworks restrictions

With the drought index rising daily, on Dec. 11 the Travis County Commissioners Court approved an order extending the burn ban in unincorporated parts of Travis County to Jan. 9 and made plans to consider fireworks restrictions at the Dec. 14 meeting.

When certain drought conditions exist, the court can limit the sale of restricted fireworks, defined as rockets with sticks and missiles with fins, according to Hershel Lee, Travis County fire marshal.

To restrict fireworks sales, the Keech-Byrum Drought Index must be at least 575. As of Dec. 10, the drought index was 549, Lee said, adding the index is expected to continue to rise.

The retail season for fireworks starts Dec. 20 and lasts until Jan. 1. Dec. 15 is the last day the court can take action to restrict fireworks sales, Lee said.

"By statute, there would still be more than two weeks between the last day we could declare a regulation on fireworks and the date on which they're most dangerous," Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt said.

If the order were implemented, that would mean a person selling or using restricted fireworks in violation of such an order would be committing a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500.

Judge Samuel Biscoe proposed reconsidering the item at a meeting on Dec. 14 to allow commissioners more time to prepare for a vote.

"It would be easy for us to look at the circumstances, determine what the facts are, and take appropriate action on Friday," he said. "That way we will know exactly what the facts are; that would give us an opportunity to dot the I's, cross the T's and fully comply with the legal requirement."

The court is scheduled to meet Dec. 14 at 1:30 p.m. for further discussion.