The Fourth of July is a great American holiday. It brings families and communities together for cookouts, beach trips and other festive events. However, this year, there will be restrictions on residents' celebrations in certain areas, due to the extremely dry conditions that are affecting much of the country.
AccuWeather's Kevin Byrne reports that many communities issued restrictions on residents' ability to launch fireworks during the holiday weekend. For example, in El Paso County, Texas, officials banned all purchasing, possession and use of fireworks for the fourth year in a row.
"All of it really does have to do with the drought," said Ruben Vogt, director of public policy for the county judge's office. "The drought really is what drives our not desire but our want to keep the community safe. "Why add another fire hazard when we don't need to?"
"It's not a trivial decision," Vogt added. "There are lots of measures and steps that we have to meet to be able to ban them completely."
With a disaster declaration from the county judge, based on soil dryness and average precipitation, fireworks can be banned for up to seven days. The governor must also approve the plan. Similar actions are being taken throughout the Southwest.
In mid-June, Dona Ana County, New Mexico, announced a 30-day ban on "the use of all fireworks within areas that are covered wholly or in part by timber, brush or native grass." Officials exempted "areas that are paved, barren, or that have a readily accessible water source" from the fireworks restrictions.
In California, many municipalities have taken similar steps to reduce the risk of property damage from fireworks. Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the source that fireworks that don't explode or launch into the air will still be permitted. However, even these products still pose an inherent risk. Tolmachoff notes that they "can still catch things on fire and can still burn you," and that safety is a prerequisite for a fun Fourth of July.
In many communities, it seems that fireworks displays organized by municipal officials and administered by professionals will still go on, although inspections for these events are still stringent and local fire departments will doubtlessly be on high alert.
AccuWeather offers some tips for property owners looking to stay safe while lighting fireworks. Other stakeholders also need to do their part to be prepared for summertime risks, which range from wildfires to hurricanes. Insurers need to be able to keep valuations for residential, commercial and farm & ranch properties up to date, so structures are covered for their full replacement cost.