Co-author Derek Younkers *
For the last 15 years, our Tilting the Scales article outlining the “Top 10 Texas Fireworks Laws” has been an explosive hit every July 4 and New Year’s. This year, especially with the excessive heat we’re experiencing, you may be wondering if your upcoming weekend fireworks extravaganza will be dampened by a county burn ban?
Probably not. County judges and their commissioners courts are empowered to issue burn bans when faced with droughts, like those of the past several years. Even though it may seem like fireworks would fall under a county’s burn ban, the state burn ban statute does not mention fireworks. The only way counties can ban fireworks is by declaring a local disaster, which requires authorization from the governor. In unincorporated areas, county commissioners can issue a fireworks ban, but even in that case, they will not prohibit all fireworks or fireworks shows – only “skyrockets with sticks” (bottle rockets) and “missiles with fins.” That means sparklers are fair game!
A Refresher on the Top Texas Fireworks Laws
- Fireworks Sales. Only permitted June 24th – July 4th and December 20th – January 1st. Plus optional:
• Texas Independence Day (February 25th – March 2nd)
• San Jacinto Day (April 16th – 21st)
• Cinco de Mayo (May 1st – 5th if within 100 miles of the Texas/Mexico border)
• Memorial Day (Wednesday before through Memorial Day)
- Where can fireworks be shot?
• NOT within 100 feet of places where flammable liquids, flammable compressed gasses or fireworks are sold or stored … seems reasonable!
• NOT from or towards motor vehicles, including boats … despite what you see in the movies.
• NOT in a public roadway, public property, park, lake or U.S. Corps of Engineer Property … hate to set a lake on fire.
• NOT bought or sold if less than 16 years old … some might argue should be closer to 26 years old.
• NOT within 600 feet of a church, hospital, day-care center or school … tough on the surgeons, I imagine!
• NOT within city limits or, in some cities, even possessing fireworks in the city is prohibited. Some cities have hefty fines approaching $2,000 for selling, igniting or possessing fireworks within city limits … country clubs and their hired experts have special permits.
• ONLY on your own property in unincorporated areas where fireworks are legal or with the owner’s written permission … mailboxes are also a no-no as to both their owner and the postman!
- LIABLE? Yes. Just satisfying these laws does not protect an ill-fated fire started by shooting fireworks. If intentional, you may be charged with arson. If accidental, you may be subject to a fine and the all damages to the injured property owner… seriously dampens your holiday weekends!
- Sobering Thought? You have to be sober to buy fireworks. So, don’t get lit before your fireworks celebration starts!
Tilting the Scales in Your Favor
As always, use good judgment when using fireworks, particularly if your area is under a burn ban. Today, of the 254 counties in the state, the Texas A&M Forest Service lists 57 counties that have burn bans, including Bexar (San Antonio) and El Paso counties.
Here’s a list of fireworks shows in DFW this holiday weekend. Have a great (and safe) Independence Day!
* Derek is a rising 2-L at Baylor Law School and a Gray Reed summer associate.