SAN ANGELO – With the ongoing drought and relentless heat wave Texas is currently experiencing, Tom Green County Commissioners are tasked with making the difficult decision to ban or allow certain types of aerial fireworks to prevent damage and destruction from any wildfire which might be ignited by errant sparks or flame from fireworks in the county.
According to the agenda for the regular weekly Tom Green County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, the court will "consider adopting an Order prohibiting or restricting certain fireworks in unincorporated areas of TGC (Tom Green County)."
The Texas Legislature allows counties to ban certain types of aerial fireworks depending on weather conditions but not outright ban all fireworks without a disaster declaration.
Commissioners will also consider reinstating the burn ban Tuesday.
Here's a short explanation about how that works: The Keetch-Byrum Drought Index (KBDI), which measures the moisture in the soil, is the indicator specified in statute (Subchapter D, Section 352.081 of the Local Government Code) that is used to determine whether or not a burn ban is necessary.
A separate statute (Subchapter C. Section 352.051) governs whether or not a fireworks ban can be enacted. To further confuse the issue, cities can make ordinances prohibiting the use and sale of fireworks and counties cannot. The City of San Angelo has permanently banned all fireworks inside the city limits by ordinance.
In order for Tom Green County to ban the sale of restricted fireworks, classified as “skyrockets with sticks and missiles with fins,” the KBDI must be at 575 by June 15th for the 4th of July fireworks season and December 15th for the December fireworks season. Last week, County Judge Steve Floyd said the KBSI was at 488.
The total ban on the sale, transportation, and use of fireworks can only be enacted by a disaster declaration by state law. These bans can only last 60 hours unless extended by the governor.
The ban on aerial fireworks would not apply to commercial Independence Day fireworks displays like the Star Spangled Banner Concert & Fireworks at the River Stage July 3.
Historically, a few individuals every year defy the ban on fireworks inside the San Angelo city limits and keep police and firefighters busy with calls for illegal fireworks being ignited. Fireworks are also banned at Twin Buttes Reservoir because in past years dozens of people have celebrated there with fireworks and left huge amounts of trash including beer bans and bottles along with the fireworks litter.
As of now, private individuals on privately owned land are allowed by law to use fireworks.
The Tom Green County Commissioners Court meets at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning on the second floor of the Keyes building downtown in the Commissioners Court Room. That meeting is open to the public.
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