No Fireworks in Harris County

It is a first for Harris County. The extreme drought conditions have resulted in Harris County Judge Ed Emmett issuing an order that bans the sale of use of any fireworks until further notice. The action will impact retailers and vendors, but all agree that safety is everyone's responsibility. Pat Hernandez has more.

Harris County Commissioners unanimously approved Judge Emmett’s request to not only prohibit the sale and use of fireworks, but to extend the county burn ban for three months.

Commissioner Jerry Eversole says he wanted it be known that it wasn’t just an item on the agenda.

“We took specific action on those two items to make sure that we didn’t have people out there selling fireworks, shooting fireworks, which in my opinion should always be banned, unless its a professional performance, and hopefully we can save property in Harris County by what we did today.”

Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery says the unanimous vote reaffirmed his concern.

“These are conditions that we haven’t seen in this part of the state. Most people think when they think wildfires, they think west Texas. They think the Panhandle and they don’t recognize that the danger is across this entire state. Right now, over 200 counties have enacted burn bans. The governor has had a proclamation of disaster in place since October of last year, and it is constantly renewed, and Harris County has been a participant in that.  It’s finally that we’re starting to see the fire conditions very close to home.”

In just days, vendors would have opened for the July 4th fireworks season.

Shannon Brinkley is president of the Harris County Chapter of the Texas Fireworks Association. He says the county’s 500 licensed fireworks vendors do some 30-million dollars in sales and provide roughly five thousand seasonal jobs.

“It’s like a half a year for us. We’re similar to a farmer. This is our crop. Our season is lost. It does have a big impact. Also, it impacts nonprofits faith based that use the revenues they generate from fireworks sales for field trips, sanctuary building. Also, the impact is somewhat global for our community, because there’s freight companies, security services. These are all gonna be impacted also.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett understands the hit to the industry, but he’s glad that everyone realizes the severity of the situation.

“The only feedback I’ve gotten at all has been ban all fireworks: what’s taken you so long? Why haven’t you done it before now? And of course, we try to explain that there’s a legal process. Counties can’t just create ordinances and do things. But at the same time, as long as we did it before they went on sale, then it didn’t matter whether we did it a week ago or now.”

Violators of the fireworks could be slapped with a one thousand dollar fine and 180-days in jail. Burn ban violators face a 500 dollar fine for each violation. Meanwhile, professional fireworks celebrations will go on, and officials anticipate an even bigger crowd for Houston’s Freedom over Texas celebration planned at Eleanor Tinsley Park.