Texas Fire Marshall Urges Extreme Caution With Fireworks

December 29, 2005

The State Fire Marshal is urging Texans to make any celebration that includes the use of fireworks this weekend, a safe one. Extreme drought conditions over much of Texas along with high winds and low humidity has put property and potentially lives in danger.

“It is presently a very dangerous condition in Texas,” said State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado. “We have had wildfires burning in several areas of the state and the weather conditions are only expected to get worse before they improve. I urge Texans who plan to celebrate with fireworks this weekend to be very careful.”

Maldonado pointed out that rural counties have been fighting numerous outbreaks of wildfires and this is also where people go to shoot fireworks. He noted that rural fire departments only have a handful of firefighters, usually volunteers, to quickly respond and contain fires that can spread rapidly.

The State Fire Marshal urged homeowners to keep their property clear of brush, keep garden hoses available and to comply with local ordinances. Burn bans have been enacted by 156 Texas counties and nearly 90 counties have restricted or banned the use of aerial fireworks during this holiday season.

A spokesman for the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Fort Worth says the state is extremely dry from Abilene to Del Rio eastward into Oklahoma. NWS senior weather forecaster Eric Martello said the Keetch-Byram Drought index in this area varies from 600 to 800, which he described as very, very dry.

Martello said satellite imagery has shown wildfires in several locations along Interstate 20 in north central Texas. Martello said a weak cold front will arrive Friday, but warmer, windy conditions will return by Sunday making for dryer conditions.

Martello said 2004 was one of the state’s wettest years creating a lot of vegetation growth. This year, rainfall for the Dallas/Fort Worth area is 15 inches below normal and Martello called it “a bad situation” for wild fires.

During this holiday season the Insurance Council of Texas urged Texans to be aware of their surroundings.

“We urge adult supervision and a safe location if you plan to ignite fireworks,” said Mark Hanna, an ICT spokesman. “Be prepared a take along extra water or a shovel. The last thing you want is sparks reaching a home or rural grass lands.”

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