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From the Parker County Judge’s Office
Continuing drought conditions and threat of wildfires has prompted County Judge Mark Riley to issue a disaster declaration banning use of all fireworks in the county until July 5.
The Texas Disaster Act allows County Judges to ban the use of fireworks during a disaster for up to 60 hours unless the governor extends the ban.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has extended the ban on the use of fireworks in Parker County through July 5, 2011. 120 other Texas counties have also banned the use of fireworks, according to Perry’s office.
“The Texas Division of Emergency Management has reviewed the request for an extension and recommends that it be granted,” Perry said.
Parker County, along with Texas as a whole, is mired in one of the worst droughts in Texas history, creating conditions that are conducive to explosive fire growth.
Fire Danger and drought conditions are measured by the Keetch Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a scale from zero to 800. Low fire danger is zero to 200 on the scale. Moderate fire danger is a KBDI of 200 to 400. High fire danger is 400 to 600 on the KBDI index and extreme fire danger is 600 to 800 on the scale.
Parker County’s KBDI number based on the 14 day drought index forecast projects Parker County to be between 600 and 700 through the July 4 weekend, placing the county in extreme fire danger.
Shawn Scott, Parker County Fire Marshall, said he and fire departments throughout the county have been busy responding to grass fire calls over the past several weeks and he expects the situation to only get worse.
“Fireworks are known to cause grass fires, even in the best of conditions,” Scott said. “With the current drought conditions combined with the high winds we have experienced, any fires could turn large and deadly in a matter of minutes. The rainfall we received today was not widespread enough to even make a dent in our long-term drought conditions. It would take sustained rainfall for several days to bring our KBDI number down.”
Riley said banning the use of fireworks is something he would only do in extreme situations, like what Parker County experienced in 2006.
“This is not a decision I make lightly, but my first and foremost duty is to help protect life and property,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to minimize the risk of one of these fires getting out of control. I am also very concerned about the safety of our firefighters in these extreme conditions.”
Parker County was one of many counties in Texas to ban the use of fireworks in 2006 under the Texas Disaster Act, due to the threat of wildfires.
In 2007 the Texas Pyrotechnic Association attempted to get legislation passed in Austin that would have stripped county cudges of the authority to ban the use of fireworks during a declared disaster. County judges and state fire officials opposed the attempt.
Texas legislators looked to find a compromise by amending the Texas Disaster Act to allow County judges to continue to establish a ban on fireworks but for only 60 hours unless an extension was granted by the governor.
Parker County is one of 225 out of the 254 Texas Counties to be under a burn ban.
Violation of this order is a Class C Misdemeanor and could result in a fine of up to $500 plus court costs and the seizure of the fireworks.