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Combination of dry conditions, fireworks bring need for added safety measures

By ALLISON MILES
July 2, 2013 at 2:02 a.m.

Tommy Burger awaits customers inside his Big Tex fireworks stand just off U.S. Highway 77 North. Burger, who has sold fireworks for four years, said the pastime is fun but encouraged others to take safety measures when shooting them off.

Did you know

·It is illegal to possess or shoot fireworks - even sparklers - off within Victoria city limits, Tom Legler, the city's fire marshal said. Punishment is a Class C citation, he said, and a person can face up to $2,000 in fines per offense.

·Those shooting fireworks off within Victoria County must do so on private property, with the landowner's permission, Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray said. Fire personnel will also be on hand at Saxet Lake from 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday for residents looking to celebrate the holiday with fireworks.

·The activity is only permissible at Saxet Lake during those hours, Pray noted.

Independence Day is just around the corner, and for many Crossroads residents, that means cookouts, visits with friends and a chance at a pastime that only comes a couple times each year: fireworks.

And for those planning to shoot those patriotic pyrotechnics off themselves, it pays to play it safe.

Recent high temperatures, paired with low humidity, dried-out grass throughout the region, said Peter McGuill, Texas AgriLife Extension agent for Victoria County.

"It sucks the moisture right out of the plant," he said Monday of ongoing conditions. "When there's dry air, there's dry ground."

A few of those in the know share their tips for safely shooting off fireworks, even when the ground is parched.

Have water - a bucket or garden hose works - or a fire extinguisher on hand in case a spark goes awry.

Before lighting fireworks, soak the ground around the ignition area with water. A good rule of thumb is a 30-foot diameter for ground devices and a 100-foot diameter for aerials.

Avoid shooting fireworks off during heavy winds.

If paved surfaces are available, light fireworks there. If not, search for an area without grass or vegetation.

Avoid shooting off fireworks around wooded areas.

Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water before throwing them into the trash can. This applies even to "duds" you might have lit but didn't go off.

Always read the labels and follow their instructions.

Appoint one "fireman" in your group. It is his or her job to look for sparks and douse those areas immediately to avoid fires.

Never let children shoot off fireworks unsupervised. Do not allow them to handle or light the items themselves.

Sources: Tommy Burger, Big Tex Fireworks stand operator; John Svoboda, Alamo Fireworks Megastore operator; Phantom Fireworks website; Victoria County Fire Marshal's office news release

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