Word around town is that the idea of a ban on fireworks sales, by county governments in West Texas, is being discussed. No actual moves made at this time, no steps taken ... just that the idea is being considered before a decision - if any - is made.
I guess I'm just not as smart as the average county commissioner ... because I can't, for the life of me, imagine what there is to consider ...
For crying out loud ... give bone-dry, baked West Texas a break this summer! Ban the sale of fireworks! And prohibit their use in any setting that is not carefully controlled, and monitored for safety (such as 'community displays' at the fairgrounds or the ballpark) !
Think of it as a way to mark the 'Year of the Firefighter.'
That's what we ought to call 2006 ... or, maybe we should mark the year as starting in December, 2005, when wildfires swept through Cross Plains, leaving 2 people dead, and 116 homes destroyed.
It was less than three months ago, that we marked what was called "the worst single day in Texas wildfire history." By that time, fires in the Panhandle had scorched 700,000 acres and killed eleven people ... and the fires weren't more than half-contained at that point. By the time the fires were well and truly 'knocked down' in the Panhandle, another 300,000 acres would be scorched. And the death toll would climb, as well ... and don't forget, more than 10,000 head of livestock lost, too.
Fires of one kind or another are an almost daily topic in the news. Some are big, like the fires in the Davis Mountains, last month. Others are small, but intense, like the fires that struck two different sets of apartments in Midland, this week. I have lived and worked in West Texas for more than twenty years ... and that included some prize-winning work, a few years back, covering the massive Glass Mountain Fire in Pecos and Brewster counties ... but I have never, NEVER seen a fire season in West Texas like this one we are experiencing now.
Almost anything can set them off ... lightning, cigarettes, sparks from welders' torches, people burning trash (in spite of a burn ban!), sparks from the wheels of railroad cars, kids playing with a lighter ... and fireworks.
And through it all, our firefighters - professionals and volunteers - have responded admirably, going out again and again in response to something terrible - even deadly - that they didn't start ... but were determined to finish. And some have given all that a person can give ... the death toll from wildfires, this year, includes a number of Texas' bravest.
Little has changed from the condition that have existed through much of the year. True, we do not have the strong, driving winds that plagued the Panhandle in March ... but it is every bit as dry, now, as it was then ... and it's been a lot hotter this month!
There are things that we, as private citizens, can do to reduce the threat of fire, and to assist the efforts of our firefighters ... and one way would be a decision to NOT light-up little packets of explosive powder and toss them God-knows-where ... couldn't we all, this year, forego a few seconds of 'snap-crackle-pop' in order to save firefighters from spending additional hours on the fire line?
July 4th, Independence Day, is just around the corner ... let's make that day the centerpiece of our celebration of 'The Year of the Firefighter' ... and give them all a quiet, fire-free day off.