No private sale, use of fireworks while drought disaster declaration in effect: Bell County judge

Public display of fireworks with permit from fire marshal still allowed
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 1:52 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - Bell County Judge David Blackburn on Wednesday, June 22, issued an order prohibiting the private and personal sale and use of fireworks without a permit issued by the Bell County Fire Marshal’s Office

“The sole purpose is to protect persons and property. That is the sole motivation,” said Blackburn.

Blackburn had previously issued a drought disaster declaration on June 13 and that declaration will remain in effect until July 11, when it could be extended.

The order to prohibit the sale and use of fireworks went into effect immediately on June 22. Violations, either through the sale or use of fireworks of any kind, is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or a sentence of up to 180 days in jail, the county said.

American Fireworks owner Chester Davis was planning on opening his Bell County stands this Friday. He says the emergency declaration means he might not have a season this year. “You hurt more people closing businesses than you have done anything else,” he said.

Blackburn said public displays of fireworks at permitted events will still go on because those events have licensed pyrotechnicians and fire department personnel on site.

The county’s declaration and fireworks ban does not apply to Fort Hood, a federal military installation. The post, however, said it will respect the county’s declaration.

“Although Fort Hood is a federal entity and not within the jurisdiction of the judge’s order, the intent of the declaration is for all to use extreme caution if hosting a fireworks event which Fort Hood will do,” the Army post said.

Fort Hood’s Directorate of Emergency Services is reportedly taking steps to ensure the fireworks display at its Freedom Fest on June 24 is safe for the community to enjoy. “Due to the dry conditions, the DES is working with our local community fire departments to have preventative fire coverage during the display,” Fort Hood said.

Fort Hood also said the Killeen and Copperas Cove fire departments will cover the area along I-14/HWY 190. “The Fort Hood DES Fire Department will have additional fire crews stationed in and around the fireworks display area before and during the event,” the post said.

During his news conference on Wednesday, Blackburn explained a drought index shows moisture levels in Bell County’s soil are very low and the risk of a wildfire is severe. Local fire departments have responded to 33 wildfires in the past seven days and 75 wildfires so far in June, the county said.

A hundred percent of Bell County is “abnormally dry” while 70 percent of the county is in a “severe drought,” Blackburn said.

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