Fire­works sales lim­ited over New Year’s

Sellers agree to a self-im­posed ban af­ter dry weather.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Farzad mashhood fmash­hood@states­ Con­tact Farzad Mashhood at 445-3972. Twit­ter: @ fmash­hood

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.

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