Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The rockets red glare

With the local area being as dry as tinder this only makes sense.

I would change the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony if a brushfire and/or structures are burned because you are stupid and decide to set off banned fireworks despite the ban.

Bexar bans 2 types of aerial fireworks
By Josh Baugh: Express-News

Gunpowder-fueled patriotism just might get snuffed out this Independence Day.

Bexar County commissioners unanimously approved a ban of two types of aerial fireworks — skyrockets with sticks and missiles with fins — and the county might try to widen the ban to include the other 95 percent of fireworks that typically are sold for the Fourth of July and New Year's.

Because fireworks are prohibited inside the city limits except for officially sanctioned displays, such a ban could limit revelers to several designated “safe zones” scattered around the county.
Michael Girdley of Alamo Fireworks said he was not surprised by the limited ban commissioners approved Tuesday.
“It happens every time it gets dry,” he said.

Bexar County and points south and west are classified as in severe drought, meaning soil moisture is so low that crop or pasture losses are likely, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Water shortages in streams and reservoirs also are occurring.

San Antonio International Airport has recorded just 6.57 inches of rain since Sept. 1 — 26.8 percent of normal.

Because of the dry conditions, Independence Day revelers could find themselves pining even for smoke bombs, sparklers and firecrackers. At the commissioners' request, the district attorney's office has agreed to investigate the county's ability to ban fireworks altogether, said First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg.

Using a state law relating to homeland security and protection of the public, Bexar County could issue a disaster declaration that would prohibit the use of all combustible fireworks. The declaration is good for only 60 hours, but could be extended by Gov. Rick Perry.

Ed Schweninger, chief of the district attorney's civil section, told the Commissioners Court he would contact the governor's office to gauge its support for a disaster declaration.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Lyle Larson, the Republican nominee for Congressional District 23, has pushed for the use of the amended Texas Disaster Act to ban all fireworks almost everywhere in the county, but he's not ready to prohibit them altogether.

“The intention is to drive them into safe zones,” Larson said. “We'd have volunteer fire departments deployed around those safe zones in case something happens.”

Three fireworks retailers — Mr. ‘W,' Big Tex and Alamo Fireworks — are working with the fire marshal on a public awareness campaign for fireworks safety and will provide at least six “shooter's sites” around the county. Larson said he wants to double the number of safe zones and through a disaster declaration limit fireworks only to those locations.

He hasn't ruled out a complete prohibition on fireworks “if we don't get the cooperation” from fireworks retailers.

Alamo Fireworks' Girdley said the companies are working with the Commissioners Court and already are searching for more potential safe zones.
“I think (the commissioners) have the intent to balance public safety with people enjoying their holidays, and we totally agree with that,” he said.

On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day this year, Bexar County registered 199 grass fires — including a brush fire that charred hundreds of acres near a China Grove safe zone. Firefighters had been stationed there but were called away to battle other blazes that cropped up throughout the county.

Larson said he wanted to dodge a repeat of that.

The county fire marshal's office will be patrolling around the holiday.

Violation of the ban on aerial fireworks is a misdemeanor.