Despite ban, fireworks lit the sky on the fourth
Cresson Fire Department Chief Ron Becker has been a busy man this summer. In the past two weeks, the volunteer fire department has responded to 17 grass fire calls and an additional four fireworks calls.
“We suspect fireworks played a role in several of our recent grass fire calls,” Becker said.
In contrast, the department received only three calls for grass fires in the two weeks prior to the last two. Becker said it’s easy for the firemen to tell when grass fires are going to start being a problem. Some of the grass fire calls the department has responded to have been easy to put out, but one recent fire caused Becker some alarm.
“One week ago in Cresson, there was a fire that threatened 10 homes because the fire was in their backyards,” he said. “It moved into their front yards, too. That fire required 19 responders and 10 pieces of apparatus from our department, along with an additional 15 responders and six additional apparatus from our neighboring departments and a task force from the U.S. Forest Service.”
These grass fire calls were in addition to the usual calls the volunteer fire department receives, such as car accidents and medical emergencies. Becker said the increased workload in the hot Texas summer takes a toll on his firemen as well as takes time away from their families.
Additionally, Becker said what is especially concerning to him is that his department is currently working in conditions that usually come about in August and that conditions may not improve until the summer is over.
Moreover, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Johnson County is in a severe drought. While portions of the county have received some rain, what rain that has come has been sparse. Other portions of the county have not had any rain at all.
On July 3, County Judge Roger Harmon made a declaration of disaster for Johnson County, and banned the use of fireworks for 60 hours. This did not extend to professional fireworks shows. Still, many people did not heed the ban and still shot off fireworks.
Burleson Police Chief Billy Cordell said that BPD received 41 firework-related complaints.
“I was more concerned this year than in the past because of how dry and windy it has been,” Cordell said. “That elevates the fire danger and we all know how devastating a large fire could be for our community. I was glad to see the County’s ban but also understand frustrations citizens voiced due to the late issuance of the order. Protecting the public sometimes requires an entity to make unpopular decisions and this was one of those times.”
By city ordinance, fireworks have been illegal to possess and shoot in Burleson, Cordell said.
“The ban did not change anything for us,” he said.
By comparison, Alvarado Fire Department Chief Richard Van Winkle said his crew has only responded to one fire that may have been started by fireworks.
“I guess we have been very fortunate,” Van Winkle said. “The fire that we did respond to was on the fourth.”
Gov. Greg Abbott responded to Judge Harmon’s request for an extension of the ban, which he granted on July 6. The ban is now extended until Friday. As for Becker, he is asking for the publics’ help in preventing more grass fires.
“We need them to be extra careful with anything outdoors that could spark a wildfire,” he said. “Fireworks are always a problem when used around dry grass. Cigarettes, unattended barbecue grills, and sparks from passing vehicles are much bigger risks in these dry conditions. It’s important that we are called quickly so we can try to stop these fires before they get out of hand. We don’t want anyone to lose their home, belongings, nor to be injured due to the carelessness of others starting a wildfire. We’ll do our best to keep that from happening.”