Houston fire chief urges extreme caution over holiday weekend
On the day before the Fourth of July, the Gorilla Fireworks lot in Houston would normally be packed with people stocking up on colorful explosives.
This year, however, there is just a small table, and two employees who are handing out poppers and snappers and information about why they’re shut down.
“In the long-term best interest, we work as closely as we can with the state fire marshal’s office, local fire chiefs on the restrictions of what we can and cannot sell,” said owner Robert Hall. “We’re a weather-sensitive business and there’s just sometimes we can’t sell fireworks.”
The state issued a notice to all stands on June 27 that the sale and use of fireworks was suspended until further notice.
Houston Fire Chief Christian Hartley said the extended dry weather has made it too dangerous to allow fireworks this year.
He said people in the area have a heightened sense of awareness because of past blazes.
In 1996, the Miller’s Reach Fire took out more than 300 buildings and did $10 million in damage; the 2015 Sockeye Fire destroyed nearly 100 structures, including 55 homes in the Willow area.
“It reminded the people in Big Lake and Houston that were impacted by Miller’s Reach it can still happen; it does happen. We have to stay on top of it and be careful. That weighed into the decision this year to stop not only the sale but also the use of fireworks during the season,” Hartley said.
With the very high fire danger and shortage of statewide firefighting resources, Hall urges people to follow the laws.
“This is a year if you still have fireworks leftover from New Year’s just leave them stored, wait for the rain, wait for New Year’s,” he said. “Wave a flag, shoot a squirt gun, watch the Mount Marathon race, but this summer is just not a year for fireworks.
The penalty for illegal fireworks use in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is up to a $500 penalty per violation.
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