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Public safety, fire danger spark debate over added fireworks days

Fireworks light up the skies over Lake Marble Falls during a past July 4 celebration. The Texas Legislature has added days that residents can legally shoot fireworks, including Texas Independence Day (March 2), San Jacinto Day (April 21) and Memorial Day (May 30). Photo by Don Comedy

Fireworks light up the skies over Lake Marble Falls during a past July 4 celebration. The Texas Legislature has added days that residents can legally shoot fireworks, including Texas Independence Day (March 2), San Jacinto Day (April 21) and Memorial Day (May 30). Photo by Don Comedy

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

BERTRAM —  For Ron Matlock, selling fireworks means an added economic boost not only to his pocketbook but his community as well.

“It gives us extra money to do things with, pay stuff off, take a vacation. It’s definitely extra money,” said Matlock, who owns and operates fireworks stands in Bertram and Kingsland.

“In Bertram, they have a city tax from the sale of the fireworks,” he added. “That also helps the economy in Bertram from that respect.”

Because of a new Texas law — HB 1150 from the 84th legislative session — local officials now how the option of expanding days for the sale of fireworks.

“The legislator created three new periods during which fireworks can be sold to the public if authorized by the commissioner’s court of each individual county,” Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery said.

Along with national holidays such as Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day, lawmakers added Texas Independence Day (March 2), San Jacinto Day (April 21) and Memorial Day (May 30) to the list of permitted days to shoot fireworks.

During a recent vote on approval for San Jacinto Day, Dockery was the only dissenting vote and expressed reservations about the added day.

“We had already authorized Texas Independence Day at our last commissioner’s court meeting, so when this came up again for San Jacinto Day, I didn’t feel like I could advocate for that,” he said. “Every time we have a fireworks period, it may be fun for the kids, but it is also a burden on our public safety support system.

“Police, fire and EMS get calls at different times,” he added. “You won’t find an animal control officer and any of these entities which think the fireworks are a good idea because the dogs and livestock are really bothered by the fireworks.”

He also expressed concerns about the potential for fires.

“As the events become later in the year, we may continue to dry out, and the threat of wildfire becomes even more critical,” he said.

Matlock believes the advantages outweigh the negatives.

“I’ve seen (the commissioners) ban them because it was just so dry you could snap your finger and start a fire. Right now, we are just soaking wet. The fire hazard is extremely low,” Matlock said.

On animal issues, he added: “What about thunderstorms? Most dogs are afraid of thunderstorms. There’s always going to be something, but you’ve got to think of everybody, and people like to shoot fireworks.”

Matlock not only welcomed the added days for the financial impact but applauded the reason.

“Texas Independence and San Jacinto Day are state-designated holidays. And Memorial Day is a national holiday. Each one of those dates is a significant point in history,” he said.

He believes Texans will eventually begin to embrace the expanded list.

“The Fourth of July is still the biggest season, with out-of-town money coming in from everywhere because of the lakes, but we’re looking forward to the addition of Memorial Day as well because by then it’s warm enough for people to play on the lakes,” he said. “Texas independence Day March 2, wasn’t very good (for sales). That was to be expected. Most people didn’t know about it. We think it will get better and better as more people know about it.”

The sale of fireworks for San Jacinto Day goes from April 16-21.

connie@thepicayune.com

4 thoughts on “Public safety, fire danger spark debate over added fireworks days

  1. I have to second Veronica’s objections. I, too, live close to the County Park and boat launch ramp on RR 2341. Year after year after year, rowdy city folks come out to the country and try to burn us out of our homes. Dry or wet conditions make absolutely no difference to the thoughtless fire works crowd. I am forced to pick-up spent fireworks parts from my yard and off the roofs of my buildings yearly after the onslaught of the fireworks WARS out here. The Park Drunks abound.

    Free-loaders using the boat launch ramp toss their garbage on the ground and in the lake which we then have to clean-up. Fireworks compound this chore for those of us who’s property they deface.

    I don’t begrudge the Ron Matlocks of this world making extra money but I DO object to his method of making that extra money at MY expense. Perhaps our bureaucrats should charge clean-up and accidental fire deposits/insurance premiums to the fireworks sellers so that the fires and trash created by their products can be covered financially! As Veronica opined, no one is HELD ACCOUNTABLE/RESPONSIBLE and yet we innocent bystanders wind up paying for their damage.

    Enough!

  2. Fireworks have been an ongoing fear for us. We are located near the the Burnet County Park on RR 2341. Over the years we have had fires on our property and on neighbors properties. The fireworks are lit at the park for days on end and usually by 10 or 11pm it sadly becomes a rowdy drunk fest.
    We have a volunteer fire department and no fire hydrants out here. It creates a very dangerous situation. So, when you think about it the fireworks should be lit off in town where there is a full time fire department that can respond to the fires. Our neighborhoods are just as valuable to us as are the neighborhoods in town.
    If my property is burned down I have no recourse. No one is responsible and yet it is really arson.
    Is it really worth it to put our property in harm’s way so someone else can benefit financially?
    The county should think about providing a safe field for lighting off fireworks. Let them be lit in city neighborhoods where a full time fire department is close by.
    As the rural areas of the county become more densely populated the idea of continuing and adding more dangerous days is ludicrous, and definitely needs to be rethought with serious consideration to all. We are taxpayers, and I’m sure as homeowners we generate more tax dollars that a fireworks stand.
    Please reconsider this issue.

  3. I would much rather shoot fireworks off on texas independence day or San jacinto day. The fourth of July should be optional for any true texian.

  4. Seriously? A “…burden on our public safety support system.” Is waking up in Burnet County every day a “burden” on public safety? How about the Marble Falls Lakefest? Maybe the Christmas parade in MF? Do any of these cases create a ‘burden’? Hardly.

    And there’s a ‘concern’ about livestock and animals? Again, really? Have we had numerous incidents over the decades of livestock or animals dropping dead due to fireworks?

    And how about the overall fire risk? In this case, perhaps there ‘might’ be an increased risk given various weather conditions, but Burnet County is also particularly good at managing and banning any event that might seriously threat life or property prior to an incident.

    So, all-in-all this is just another example of a politician trying to make something out of nothing, in order to make some press. Perhaps Mr. Dockery should tend to his knitting, and allow small business to make a couple of bucks, (God knows everyone’s economy can use the help), while allowing folks in the area to appreciate and celebrate our local culture, rather than behaving like a liberal Austin loon.

    R.A. Carlton

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