Harris County to be fireworks-free

June 21, 2011 1:54:12 PM PDT
All but 30 of the state's 254 counties have burn bans in place and many counties are now taking it a step further -- banning fireworks altogether just ahead of the Fourth of July. Harris County has now been added to the list. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett signed an order this morning declaring a drought disaster and banning the sale or use of any fireworks anywhere in unincorporated Harris County. Commissioners Court ratified Emmett's order and it now goes to Gov. Rick Perry.

Violators of the fireworks ban face a $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail, according to a release issued by Judge Emmett's office. Violators face a fine of up to $500 for each incident.

Two weeks ago, Harris County commissioners voted to ban the sales of missile and rocket type fireworks. Wednesday, Judge Emmett signed the order, the the first time nearly anyone can recall such a drastic action. This is no ordinary drought.

In four days, Top Dog Fireworks Warehouse would have opened for the Fourth of July fireworks season, along with local fireworks stands around the county. But on Tuesday, wheels will be set in motion to ban all fireworks sales in unincorporated Harris County when a disaster declaration will be approved by commissioners and sent to the governor.

"We have a tinderbox out there," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "What would be a normal grassfire suddenly becomes a 50 acre fire threatening subdivisions."

The declaration allows for a ban on all fireworks sales. The wildfire danger is so great that a carelessly discarded sparkler could ignite dry grass.

Retailers are losing half their sales season, but a spokeswoman for Top Dog says there is no alternative.

Sue Davis said, "The drought is unbelievable. It's the worst in this state's history. We are not fighting against this at all. This is the responsible thing to do."

You still don't have to go without your fireworks fix. The Freedom of Texas celebration will go on as planned at Eleanor Tinsley Park.

Montgomery County commissioners on Monday issued a disaster declaration. The declaration bans the sale of all fireworks due to a "very high fire danger." The ban also prohibits setting off any fireworks in Montgomery County, even those bought in another county. Montgomery County commissioners also voted to extend the county's burn ban for an additional 90 days.

Lake Jackson is the latest casualty of the drought. The city said Tuesday it has decided to cancel its July Fourth fireworks because of the extremely dry conditions.

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