Posted on Jun 21st, 2011
Judge Emmett Signs Disaster Order Restricting Sale Or Use
Of All Fireworks Throughout Unincorporated Harris County
County Judge Ed Emmett signed a disaster declaration Tuesday morning that, in effect, outlawed the sale or use of all fireworks within Harris County until after the Fourth of July. Commissioners Court unanimously ratified Emmett’s order moments later, extending its provisions and sending it on to Gov. Rick Perry. With Perry’s approval, the disaster order remains in effect until rescinded by Emmett. The ban will not extend to commercial displays such as the one scheduled for Freedom over Texas and Miller Outdoor Theatre, Joe Stinebaker, the judge's spokesman, said late Monday.
“All of us on Commissioners Court recognize public safety as our top responsibility,” Emmett said Tuesday. “I think everyone, from Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery and local fire officials to representatives of the fireworks industry and the general public at large, understands the overwhelming need to take serious preventive action to avert disastrous wildfires from threatening our property, our homes and our families.”
Because all 34 municipalities in Harris County already have permanent bans on the sale or use of fireworks within their jurisdictions, the action by Harris County means fireworks are illegal to sell or use throughout the entire county. In addition, most neighboring counties and municipalities have banned or are considering banning fireworks. The only exception to the ban is for a public display “conducted by a person holding a valid pyrotechnic operator’s license or a valid pyrotechnics special effects operator’s license.”
On its own, Emmett's action only restricts sales for 60 hours, but following its ratification by the Commissioner's Court, the order will be sent to the governor who has authorized similar drought-related disaster declarations in 108 other counties that last until that county decides to lift it.
On June 7, County Commissioners initially approved a ban the sale and use of “restricted fireworks,” those describes as “rockets with sticks” and “missiles with fins,” in unincorporated areas until drought conditions end. All municipalities in the county already had such a ban. Prior to that move, the fireworks industry had voluntarily agree not sell the items within Harris County.
In a separate drought-related move, commissioners will vote on extending the countywide ban on burning by 90 days until mid-October.
Violators of the fireworks ban face a $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail. Violators of the burn ban face a fine of up to $500 for each violation.