CON: Safety should be first priority

Sonny Long

July 3, 2011 at 2:03 a.m.

It didn't take much to convince Refugio Mayor Ray Jaso to cancel the city's annual fireworks display this Independence Day.

"When the fire chief asked me if I was going to take responsibility if we started a grass fire, that did it," said the mayor. "I said to cancel it. Just to be safe."

Refugio has reset its fireworks display for Labor Day. Other area towns have also canceled their annual fireworks shows, including Yorktown.

In Yorktown, Fire Marshal Kevin Lamprecht thought it best to cancel the annual show because of the drought conditions, said Melissa Armstrong, executive director of the Western Days Association whose group traditionally works concessions sales at the event.

State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado said it's these local decisions that are driving whether public fireworks displays should be held this year.

"The unprecedented drought we are experiencing will have a major impact on Texans' ability to enjoy fireworks this holiday season," said Maldonado. "Most of our counties are experiencing severe drought conditions, requiring local officials to take action and declare an emergency, which under the law can prohibit the use and sale of all types of fireworks.

"This can include the professional displays many of our communities have traditionally sponsored on the 4th.

"The safety and well being of our communities must be the highest priority for all Texans right now," Maldonado said.

The state fire marshal emphasized that it is the local governments who are the official authorities on fireworks in their municipalities or counties.

"You should always follow their orders, instructions and recommendations," Maldonado said.

Victoria bookstore sales associate J.D. Serrano thinks cities should err on the side of caution and keep the fireworks in their boxes this year.

"Since a burn ban is in effect and given the extreme dry conditions, high winds and high humidity, I would rather be on the safe side and not have them," Serrano said.



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