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Landowners encouraged to take safety measures to protect land this Independence Day

By ALLISON MILES
July 3, 2012 at 2:03 a.m.

A lone shopper looks over displays filled with fireworks at the Olde Glory Fireworks store just north of Denver, Colo.. Widespread drought combined with warranted fears of wildfires are snuffing out some Fourth of July festivities this year from Utah  to Indiana.

Tips for playing it safe around fireworks:

• Use fireworks outdoors only.

• Have water at the ready, either a hose or bucket.

• Never alter or combine fireworks and always follow safety instructions.

• Never re-light a "dud." Instead, wait 20 minutes and soak it in water.

• Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated shooter."

• Only people age 12 and older should handle sparklers of any kind.

• Never use homemade fireworks made of illegal explosives. They can kill you. Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department.

Source: National Council on Fireworks Safety website

Independence Day's arrival means many Crossroads residents are busying themselves with celebration barbecues, family outings and perhaps a firecracker or two.

Holiday or not, however, it pays to stay on guard.

Landowners should take precautions to protect their assets this Fourth of July.

Brian Yanta, Texas AgriLife Extension agent in Goliad County, urged landowners to build fire guards around their property if they hadn't done so already. It's good advice year-round, he added, especially for those with property along highways.

Cigarette butts, trailers dragging chains on the road and other things can all spark grass fires.

People shooting off fireworks should consider their surroundings, and avoid the pastime in areas with tall, dry grass, Yanta said. And there's plenty of that at the moment.

"Even the grasses that were green last week, if you're not catching that rain we've gotten, these 105-degree temperatures have burned them up," he said.

While livestock will likely weather the holiday OK, Yanta advised landowners to consider their animals' temperaments, and be prepared in case fireworks might spook them.

Structure fires are another concern, said Shannon Deforest, Texas AgriLife Extension agent for Lavaca County.

He said he is especially worried about stored hay that might ignite.

"Since we're quickly approaching drought situations again this year, hay is a precious commodity," he said. "We'd hate for some of that to get burned up."

Deforest encouraged people to play it safe and attend professional fireworks displays, rather than shooting them off on their own.

Those who take celebrations into their own hands should use common sense, he said. If conditions are dry, consider avoiding aerial fireworks.

Regardless, take extreme caution.

"Remember what happened in Bastrop recently, and what's happening in Colorado now," he said of the out-of-control wildfires. "We want to be conscious of that potential. And there's always potential."

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