County officials are concerned about bills in the state legislature that could allow the sale of fireworks all year long.
The Grayson County Commissioners Court passed a resolution Tuesday opposing any change to fireworks regulations at the state level. Emergency Management Coordinator Sarah Somers told the commissioners the bills could also restrict local control of fireworks sales.
“We have reason to believe this will leave committee and will be voted on by the full House,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said.
The county judge said that is likely to happen sometime in the next two weeks.
“We are accustomed to people being able to use fireworks on specific holidays,” Somers said, but added the county is also accustomed to being able to regulate the sale of certain types of fireworks in times of drought to prevent wildfires.
The new bills being considered, Somers said, might take away that ability to regulate sales in dryer periods of time. She said the county usually only has to deal with the issue of fireworks around certain holidays, like the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve.
“Nobody is a big fan of government regulation, but we are big fans of safety,” Somers said. “And we are aware that the response to fireworks and things that happen because of them increases on those holidays.”
Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt agreed the workload for his deputies also increases around those holiday periods because they get called out about the things that happen when fireworks get out of control.
“Fourth of July and New Year’s, it’s just crazy the number of calls that we receive on those things,” Watt said. “If we had to deal with that year round, we’d probably being coming to ask you for more deputies.”
Somers said the proposed bills would mean county leaders would have do deal with fireworks issues all the time and Magers pointed out the cities would not be impacted by the proposed legislation as most people would, most likely, go to the unincorporated parts of the county to fire those fireworks.
“There’s not one fire official that I could find who thinks that unfettered use of fireworks 24/7/365 is a good idea,” Somers said. “I just don’t think that we could keep up with the response. It’s not just the fire hazard. It creates all kinds of issues with fear and people having problems with livestock and horses that are not trained to be used to loud noises and fireworks.”
Commissioner Phyllis James said those who go to unincorporated areas to shoot fireworks often then leave behind all of the debris where it landed, which means someone from the county has to go out and clean it up.
In the end, only Commissioner David Whitlock voted to oppose the resolution opposing any change to the regulations regarding the use of fireworks. Commissioners James, Bart Lawrence and Jeff Whitlock all voted in favor of the resolution to oppose changes.