County cleared for fireworks usage

Ector County officials say residents can continue with planned Independence Day celebrations and fireworks displays despite burn bans established in surrounding counties.
Seven out of nine counties bordering Ector County and Midland County have established burn bans, but no such restrictions have been put in place for Midland-Odessa.
In Texas, local governments can prohibit or restrict outdoor burning for public safety.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Dale Childers is a retired assistant fire chief who served with the Odessa Fire Department and said Ector County did not meet the criteria this year to establish a burn ban or restrict fireworks sales for the Fourth of July.
Childers said officials take into account weather conditions, upcoming holidays and the Keetch Byram Drought Index when setting parameters to keep the public safe. He said fuel load is another factor considered because it measures a fire’s ability to spread based on the amount and type of flammable material such as trees, weeds and property in an area.
“All that comes into play for us to come to a decision,” Childers said.
The Texas A&M Forest Service offers access to KBDI data, which is designed specifically for fire potential assessment, to counties across Texas. The index ranges from 0 to 800 units. Zero is the point of no moisture deficiency and 800 represents completely dry conditions.
TFS Fire Weather Analyst Scott Breit said West Texas is not currently experiencing a drought.
Drought conditions are defined by a KBDI of 575 or greater, and Breit said a county would typically need to be at least at a KBDI of 500 to establish a burn ban.
“Out there in West Texas you’re not seeing that at all, it’s not even close,” he said. “The vast majority of the state, 95 percent, doesn’t even have abnormally dry conditions. Over the next week I don’t expect that to change.”
Ector County is estimated to fall within the 200 to 300 KBDI range.
Fire Chief Richard Pease of the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department said although there are no restrictions prohibiting fireworks like last year, those who plan on lighting up the night sky should take precautions to reduce the chances of a fire occurring.
“We’re not under any burn bans, but we are definitely still dry,” Pease said. “Keep a water supply close and if you have a fire extinguisher keep it with you too. I highly recommend mowing all of the weeds and grass away from your house.”
It is illegal to explode fireworks within city limits or in the middle of a roadway. Residents who continue to pop fireworks after midnight on July 4 may also be presented with a ticket. Breaking a fireworks law could result in a class C misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.
“We haven’t had an extreme amount of problems during the Fourth of July holiday, but we will be fully staffed and write tickets if we need to,” Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said.