July 4th kicks off dangerous fire season in Central Texas

The Fourth of July holiday is right around the corner, but, before starting the celebration, firefighters urge everyone to pay attention to fire danger. 

In just the last two weeks, Austin firefighters have responded to 30 brush fires in Travis County. Fireworks are one of the main culprits for accidental fires in the summer.

For the Austin Fire Department, the patriotic festivities are a reminder of the beginning of fire season. 

“I've seen an uptick in the number of grass and brush fires already,” said Josh Portie, battalion chief with the Austin Fire Department. 

So far, this year's drought conditions somewhat resemble 2011, a year with one of the driest and hottest summers on record. Because recent years had more rain, brush and grass grew to new heights before drying out. 

“Fires are going to take off really, really, really quickly because of the dry conditions that we're seeing,” Portie said.   

The Texas A & M Forest Service released a map showing which counties are currently under a burn ban. Travis, Hays and Williamson all made the list. 

“We are still under a burn ban and that means that conditions are such that grass and brush fires are very prevalent,” said Portie.  

However, that doesn't necessarily affect fireworks, as they are not usually included in burn bans. 

“There are no stipulations and no bans, outside of the City limits, on various fireworks,” Portie said. 

One place where it's hard to tell there is any kind of drought is Auditorium Shores, where Austin’s firework display will take place Wednesday night. 

“We always have units or resources standing by, even if it's just a single inspector or a firetruck,” said Portie.  

Even with professional pyrotechnics, things can sometimes go wrong, which is why Austin firefighters will be ready to respond from the sidelines of six permitted events this week. 

“Fireworks are beautiful and awesome, but they also require a lot of responsibility,” Portie said. 

For anyone planning to set off fireworks outside of city limits, firefighters provided these tips: 

Keep a bucket of water nearby to put fireworks out after they go off. Never re-light a firework that doesn't go off. And always light fireworks on a solid, flat surface.