The only fireworks allowed during the 4th of July celebration this year will be the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce’s professional fireworks display above Wheeler Branch Reservoir.
Somervell County Commissioners gave the go-ahead Monday to County Judge Mike Ford’s suggestion that he declare a local disaster and secure an extension from Gov. Rick Perry’s office so the county can ban the sale and use of fireworks on the weekend proceeding and on the day of the 4th of July.
The county also has a burn plan in place.
Shooting fireworks when their sale or usage has been prohibited is a Class C misdemeanor punishable with a fine up to $500, plus court costs.
County Fire Marshal Dwayne Griffin showed commissioners the latest map of Texas indicating drought areas, including Somervell County.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index used by the forest service classifies the county at a level of 609, with 800 being the highest level. The 14-day projection could raise the index to 675, he said.
“That’s still one week shy of July 4,” Griffin said.
If dry conditions continue, the county’s drought index will be close to 700 by July4 he added. Current forecasts call for only a 10 percent chance of rain several days next week.
“I highly recommend we ban all fireworks because by July 4, fire conditions are going to be too extreme,” Griffin said.
Commissioners first voted to specifically disallow the sale or use of stick rockets or rockets with fins.
“Sticks and fins are apparently the most notorious of the fireworks for starting fires,” Ford said.
When a county judge declares a local disaster, it lasts for 60 hours. The governor’s office can extend the time period if requested to do so.
The order had to be done by June 15 and will expire on July 5 or when the Texas Forest Service determines there is no longer a drought.
Citizen Greg Marsh questioned whether the governor could declare a total statewide ban on fireworks.
“You’ve got to light a firecracker or whatever and that exposes us big time” to potential fires, Marsh said.
Ford responded that the governor likely would not issue a state ban “because of the concept of local control.”
But, he added with a smile, “If it rains for three weeks, we’ll find a way” to declare the ban over.
The Chamber's fireworks display will be held Sunday, July 3, at Wheeler Branch Reservoir.