Fireworks sales limited over New Year’s
Sellers agree to a self-imposed ban after dry weather.
Fireworks sales will be limited in Travis and surrounding counties during the New Year’s season.
Vendors have agreed to a self-imposed ban of winged fireworks in Travis and Williamson counties while Hays, Bastrop, Blanco and Burnet counties have all passed bans on those fireworks following an exception- ally dry several weeks.
Travis County’s commissioners on Tuesday punted a vote on a ban to Friday. Williamson and Caldwell County commissioners also did not pass bans at their meetings this week, but two major fireworks sellers said on Tuesday they’ll voluntarily pull fireworks from stands in areas where they aren’t banned.
State law gives counties until Dec. 15 to ban such fireworks during the winter selling season of Dec. 20 to Jan. 1, but only if a drought index meets a certain threshold. The county judge may also issue an emergency ban during the selling season. By Tuesday, that index in Travis County was 549 out of a maximum of 800, short of the 575 needed to institute a ban.
It’s possible that conditions can get that much drier by Friday for the commissioners to pass a ban, but they’d just be doing what vendors already agreed to do on Tuesday, Fire Marshal Hershel Lee said.
“We won’t sell in Williamson County, Travis County, Hays County. It won’t matter to us. … We don’t want the exposure, we don’t want the problems (of selling winged fireworks.),” said Chester Davis, who owns Bastropbased American Fireworks. “We’re going to remedy the problem ourselves.”
Davis and Zachary Stearns said they own about 50 fireworks stands in the Austin area and have met with other vendors who will agree to a self-imposed ban in Travis County even if commissioners don’t approve one.
“Stick rockets and missiles are 90, 95 percent of the problem, and if we can keep those out of people’s hands, we can protect the county,” Davis said.
This year just before the Fourth of July, sellers agreed to a similar selfimposed ban. Sellers and Lee said at the time it was the widest partial ban they’d ever agreed on. Winged pyrotechnics which fly pose the most danger as they shoot sparks and move errantly. Lee has said they are the most likely to start a fire.
Vendors will still be selling artillery shells, Roman candles, foun- tains and other fireworks, Davis said. Winged fireworks normally make up about 15 to 20 percent of the inventory.
While Travis County saw above average rainfall in the spring and summer of 2012, that has left the area with more flammable brush, made worse by Austin recording no measurable rain since Oct. 26.
The sale and use of fireworks is banned entirely in Austin and many other Central Texas cities.