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Is it too dry for fireworks? Officially, not in Harris County

Carol Christia, Houston Chronicle
Updated 11:32 pm, Friday, June 28, 2013

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  • Fireworks explode over the downtown skyline during the Freedom Over Texas annual Fourth of July celebration on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, in Houston. ( Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle) Photo: Smiley N. Pool, Staff / © 2012  Houston Chronicle
    Fireworks explode over the downtown skyline during the Freedom Over Texas annual Fourth of July celebration on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, in Houston. ( Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle) Photo: Smiley N. Pool, Staff

 

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Even though Harris County does not have a ban on Fourth of July fireworks this year, recent dry weather, low humidity and strong winds add up to good conditions for fireworks-related fires.

Holiday fireworks went on sale June 24, and the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office is asking anyone who sets off fireworks to be careful.

Any carelessly used firework has the potential to start a fire or cause injury, said Harris County Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery.

"Fireworks are not legal in most cities, and they are also banned in certain sections of the unincorporated area of the county," Montgomery said. "Officers will be issuing citations and could seize illegal fireworks."

Despite current dry conditions, the decision to allow them is not subjective.

Harris County Commissioners Court decides whether to enact a ban on the recommendation of the fire marshal, who follows a formula.

By state law, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index allows counties to consider restrictive measures at 575 on the index's scale of zero to 800, with 800 indicating completely dry soil.

In December, Harris County banned the use and sale of "rockets with sticks" and "missiles with fins," two common types of fireworks.

In Texas, fireworks can be sold legally only three times per year - early May, late June/early July, and late December.

Montgomery offered these guidelines for safely using fireworks:

Read and follow directions and warning labels.

Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

Light only one firework away from homes or other buildings.

Be considerate of neighbors with noise and don't leave trash behind.

To register complaints about the illegal sale or use of fireworks, call the Harris County Fire Marshal complaint line at 281-999-2200.

Visit the fire marshal's website — www.hcfmo.net — for these tips on fireworks safety and pets:

Do not take your pets to a fireworks display.

Do not leave them in the car by themselves or unattended outside.

Keep all pets inside. If you are having guests, keep the pets in a room that is off-limits to the guests and provide the animals with plenty of food and water.

Create a calming environment. Surround pets with their favorite toys and other familiar objects.

Play soothing music or keep the TV on and keep the room as quiet as possible by closing windows, doors and blinds to muffle the loud noises outside.

Do not let pets sniff or ingest fireworks. Aside from a severe burn, your animal can become ill or even die due to ingesting chemicals and heavy metals in fireworks.

Make sure your pet is properly licensed and wearing its tag.