Monday, June 23, 2008

The rockets red glare II

I swear my yard is about to go into spontaneous combustion.

It boggles my mind to think we need to tell folks not to shoot off fireworks when there is a fireworks ban.

But then we have to tell them not to rob, steal or kill and they still do.

'Fireworks Scrooge' more serious than ever
Lomi Kriel: Express-News

Planning to stock up on sparklers, bottle rockets and Roman candles for your Independence Day festivities?

You might want to invest in extra apple pie instead. The pretty explosions of light could cost you hundreds of dollars in fines that officials say they'll impose this year.

Though purchasing or possessing fireworks within city limits has long been illegal, officials say they're now clamping down on the practice with a vengeance. Faced with higher-than-average summer temperatures, severe drought conditions and strong winds, they're trying to avoid a sequel to the large-scale brush fires that swept the city and county over New Year's Eve.

Beginning Tuesday, the Fire and Police Departments will team up for patrols. Anyone caught bringing fireworks within the city limits will be cited for a Class C misdemeanor and face a fine ranging from $250 to $2,000.

“We're definitely going to be the fireworks Scrooge,” Fire Chief Charles Hood said. “This year, we're very, very serious. Let the professionals do the displays.”

On New Year's Eve, city firefighters fielded 785 calls, Hood said, including 328 related to grass fires thought to have been started by fireworks.

In China Grove, near a Bexar County safe zone operated by Alamo Fireworks, fireworks in the area started a blaze that burned 400 acres, threatened several homes and had to be battled for hours.

Such incidents tie up emergency workers, Hood said. “If you had a heart attack, or you're getting ready to have a baby, that means you'd be competing with hundreds of fire calls all at the same time,” he said.

The hazardous fire conditions on New Year's Eve are “the same conditions we'll be facing now, but it's even worse,” Hood said.

Last month, Gov. Rick Perry issued an emergency proclamation describing extreme fire danger for 229 of Texas' 254 counties, including Bexar. Also included is Comal, where officials are considering a ban similar to Bexar County's.

Hood said spotters working undercover would look for people purchasing fireworks in the county and bringing them into the city. They could be pulled over and cited, with the fireworks confiscated.

“You don't know where we're going to be, and you don't know when we're going to be there,” Police Chief William McManus said at a news conference Friday.

Word of the crackdown comes days after Bexar County commissioners declared a local emergency, expanded bans on some types of aerial fireworks and set limits on when and where fireworks can be ignited.

Though it's legal to buy fireworks in the county, the commissioners' action makes it illegal to light them anywhere but in sanctioned safe zones sponsored by local fireworks dealers. They will be open from 6 p.m. through midnight on July 3 and July 4.

Officials plan to burn vegetation in those zones to further limit the fire hazard.
Rockets, missiles and winged fireworks will no longer be available for purchase, and their ignition is illegal.

Anyone witnessing fireworks violations during the holiday weekend is asked to call the fireworks hotline at (210) 207-0202.