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County officials urge fire safety

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, many Denton County residents probably are thinking about fireworks and barbecue.

Fireworks will go on sale in many locations within the next few days, although they are illegal in more than 90 percent of towns and cities across the county, officials said.

More than 40 permits for fireworks stands have been issued throughout the unincorporated parts of the county this year, said Jody Gonzalez, county fire marshal.

“We hope people have a good time, but we want people to be safe while they do it,” Gonzalez said.

On average, county authorities respond to more than 20 fireworks-related fires each year. Officials said roughly eight to 10 injuries from fireworks require a medical transport.

“It’s all about precaution,” Gonzalez said. “If you do start a fire, call 911 before anything else. Don’t try to be a firefighter.”

If a resident happens to put out a fire, Gonzalez said, they still should call their local fire department to have someone check the site to make sure there aren’t any smoldering areas.

“Those can lead to a structure fire if you aren’t careful,” he said.

County residents need to confirm the legality of fireworks before using them, Gonzalez said.

“Call and check [if they are allowed] — not only the city where you live but your homeowners association; they, too, might issue their own violations.”

If fireworks are illegal in a city, residents shouldn’t assume that they can leave the city limits and shoot them off on a county road, Gonzalez said.

Officials said it’s illegal to use fireworks on county roads. Citations issued, Gonzalez said, generally are for littering or reckless damage and destruction, both Class C misdemeanors that carry fines of up to $500.

It’s also illegal to shoot fireworks from any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department property, Gonzalez said.

While he doesn't expect a burn ban to be in place this year, Gonzalez said people need to be mindful of where they use fireworks.

“I’ve had people get trash bags full of firework debris from their property, and they never shot a single firework off,” he said. “Be cautious of your neighbors and make sure you have plenty of room on your own property before firing.”

Barbecue grills also can pose a fire danger, and Gonzalez advised those who plan to cook outdoors to keep a water hose handy.

Officials said they recommend keeping a grill or smoker at least 10 feet away from structures, landscaping or vehicles and to keep property clear of high grass and clutter.

Gonzalez said the best idea this Fourth of July is to go out and enjoy a public fireworks show. Those events are properly planned to provide safe family entertainment, he said.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885.