Harris and surrounding counties are in the throws of a severe drought, despite some thunderstorms that have hit the area. Harris County Commissioners voted to ban the sale and use of certain fireworks as a result. They include skyrockets with sticks and missiles with fins, two items that have the potential to start a fire.
This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:
“I’m taking the lead from the fire marshal on that. This is a very fact driven situation. I mean, they measure what the drought index is and they’ve got exact trigger points that if you get to a certain level, then certain ban occur.”
Fire officials make determinations on fireworks or outdoor burning bans in part, by assessing what’s called the Keetch-Byram Drought Index readings. It is a commonly used drought scale adapted for fire management applications, that measures moisture levels in the air and soil on a system with a top rating of 800.
It is currently at 708.
Recent thunderstorms have had little effect on reducing the drought, and Judge Emmett says the restrictions will last as long as the drought conditions do.
“The next step will be a disaster declaration, if we continue to be dry and at that point, we will be banning all fireworks, sales and use. So, the fireworks industry itself just won’t even open up for sale.”
Harris County Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery says they will continue to monitor the dry conditions. Those caught violating the fireworks ban face citations up to 500-dollars and fireworks will be confiscated.