County likely to extend burn ban

If your Christmas or New Years celebration plans include rockets or finned fireworks, you may want to think again.Howard County Judge Mark Barr said Friday he plans to propose an extension to the existing burn ban and a nix on finned fireworks and rockets going into the Christmas and New Year holidays during the commissioners’ Dec. 12 meeting in hopes of staving off wildfires in the coming months.Barr said the county must have the fireworks ban in place no later than Dec. 15.“The ban will effect rocket-type fireworks with fins. It’s just so dry out there and there’s so much fuel, we’re worried it could pose a serious danger,” Barr said. “Honestly, I expect both measures — the continuation of the burn ban and the ban on the fireworks — to pass easily. It’s no secret how dangerous conditions are right now, and with no real relief in sight, theyare only going to get worse as the winter months continue on.”According to county officials, the ban will only effect rocket-type fireworks with fins. However, Barr, along with County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan, are imploring local residents to use extreme caution when deal with any kind of ignition sources.“The rockets pose the highest level of danger when it comes to starting a grass fire or wildfire,” Sullivan said. “However, don’t be fooled into thinking everything else is OK. Any kind of firework that produces heat or sparks can start a fire, even firecrackers and other items that don’t normally take flight. The best way to avoid a problem is to just avoid shooting fireworks altogether.”Barr said a complete ban of fireworks sales during the holiday season would require support from the Texas Governor’s office, something he isn’t expecting at this point.“I can place a ban on all fireworks for a 60-hour period, but 60 hours won’t do much good,” Barr said. “It takes the governor to sign a decree to make the ban last long enough to get us through the holiday, and right now I’m not expecting that to happen.”Barr said he has spoke with meteorologists at the state level, and the outlook for West Texas at this point doesn’t look very good going into 2012.“Without some serious rain, we could be looking at a fire risk greater than what we had this time last year,” Barr said ominously. “The meteorologists have all said the outlooks don’t look favorable for rain between now and this coming spring, and they are simply unwilling to try to guess beyond that. So no one really knows at this point what to expect. We really need to try to do everything we can to protect our county.”Barr said he hopes the continuation of the burn ban will help the county accomplish that, but it will take county residents observing it to really drive home the message.“I think everyone remembers what we went through earlier this year, and during the past couple of years. That really woke a lot of people up to the danger of these fires,” Barr said. “We just want to keep that caution at the forefront of their thinking so we can avoid those kinds of conditions.”Sullivan said there are already so many different ways fire can start that are out of residents’ control, it’s vital to eliminate as many of the preventable fires as possible.“It’s an extremely dangerous situation right now, and it’s going to get worse as we move further into the winter months,” Sullivan said. “There are plenty of ways fire can start, such as downed electrical lines or problems with the railroad tracks, so we need to do everything we can to keep the human causes of these grass and brush fires to a minimum.”Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at