For many, the Fourth of July is a fun day full of festivities to show patriotic pride for the United States. However, it can be a rather hectic day for local law enforcement and fire protection personnel, responding to illegal fireworks reports and people firing guns into the air.
Shooting fireworks off in Houston and most other cities nearby is not legal. But, in most unincorporated areas across local counties, residents may be allowed to do so, said Justin Jurek, Fort Bend County Fire Marshal.
“We encourage everyone who wants to pop their fireworks to check the area where they are; if you’re in a neighborhood outside of city limits, your homeowners association may have rules and regulations to say you can’t use them,” he said.
In the areas where they are legal, state laws still require people firing them to be away from nearby churches, daycares and schools.
Jurek said fireworks should be lit on a flat surface, not close to any homes, buildings, vehicles, dry vegetation or flammable materials and a water source – like a hose or bucket – should always be nearby.
All used fireworks should be soaked for around eight to 12 hours before being placed in a garbage container. This reduces the risk of a fire starting from one that might still be smoldering.
“We saw an increase in vehicle fires last year during New Year’s because people put recently discarded fireworks in the back of their trucks,” Jurek said.
Tracee Evans, public information officer with the Spring Fire Department, said firefighters have responded to garage fires because people were improperly throwing fireworks in their trash cans.
“We’ve had many fires because people are disposing of fireworks wrong, or they are shooting them down the street where they get caught on neighbors’ roofs, fences, bushes or trees,” she said. “If a firework strikes something that can light on fire, chances are it will do that.”
Brandi Dumas, communications manager at the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, said people who are not cautious risk burning their fingers, hands and faces.
She said one thing a person should remember when firing fireworks is to never look or lean over one that they might think is a dud, as this can lead to it blowing up in their face.
Parents should supervise their children, and be aware if certain kinds of fireworks are given to their kids.
“We should be very cautious about sparklers. They burn six times hotter than boiling water,” Dumas said. “That is something we want everyone to consider.”
Those firing fireworks should not be drinking, as they may have delayed reaction times during an emergency because they’re under the influence, Evans said.
Deputy Thomas Gilliland, public information officer at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, said rideshares such as Uber and Lyft are available and suggested designating a driver ahead of going out to avoid drunk driving.
Gilliland said the Fourth of July and Memorial Day Weekend are two weekends with the highest number of people picked up for drinking while intoxicated.
Law enforcement officers are also patrolling to look out for “celebratory gunfire” or people shooting up mindlessly into the air, “It is the deadliest type of thing that you can do because that projectile has to come down somewhere. It can go into someone’s home or strike and kill them,” he said.
The public should call 911 in emergencies, such as hearing this gunfire. For non-emergency firework complaints or reports, contact Harris County law enforcement through the non-emergency number: 713-221-6000.
Public firework displays handled by licensed technicians or pyrotechnics and shows that incorporate “digital fireworks” or drone displays are always safe alternatives to celebrate:
General Admission $10
Children 5 & under free w/ paid adult
When: Tuesday, July 4, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Where: Eleanor Tinsley Park
18-3600 Allen Pkwy, Houston TX 77019
Free Entry for all
When: Tuesday, July 4, 4 p.m. – 9: 15 p.m.
Where: Houston Community College-Southwest College
1600 Texas Parkway, Missouri City 77489
When: Tuesday, July 4, starting at 9 a.m.
Where: Town Green Park
2099 Lake Robbins Dr,
The Woodlands, TX 77380
Free entry for all
When: Tuesday, July 4, doors at 4 p.m., event from 5 p.m.- 9p.m.
Where: The Crown Festival Park
Free entry for all
This is a drive-in event
When: Tuesday, July 4, parking areas open at 6:30 p.m., show begins at 9 p.m.
Where: Texas A&M-RELLIS campus
3100 TX-47, Bryan, Texas.