AUSTIN - Fireworks are officially on the shelves this weekend with the Fourth of July holiday right around the corner. With shoppers already spending hundreds on the explosives, the Austin Fire Department is reminding citizens of the rules and ways to stay safe.
Fireworks are illegal within city limits and within 5,000 feet outside the city limits. If you are caught lighting fireworks in the city, the fine is $568. However, if your fireworks cause injuries and/or property damage, you could be charged with assault and/or arson, both felony crimes.
AFD says every year, there are hundreds of brush, grass, and structure fires across the state started by fireworks, causing millions of dollars in damage and risking Texan lives.
"We're talking about fireworks coming down in the shed or in the gutters of a home, or anything like that so those fireworks can cause fires anywhere not just in the grass,” Austin Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Josh Portie said.
Two years ago, Austin firefighters were called to an apartment fire after three boys set off fireworks in the bedroom, two suffered from burns.
Chief Portie says kids should never be allowed near them, and adults should soak the fireworks when you're finished.
"Taking them out, make it in a pile on the driveway so if it did reignite or catch on fire later on it has nowhere to go,” he said.
"The best way to enjoy fireworks this Fourth of July holiday is to leave them to the professionals," said Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr.
The U.S. Department of Transportation does not classify sparklers, smoke bombs, glow worms, and poppers as common fireworks, so those are allowed.
However, AFD says sparklers can reach temperatures of 1,800 degrees and smoke bombs shoot a flame of 2 to 3 inches when lit. So, even though these items are legal, they can be very dangerous.
The Austin Police Department will be responding to fireworks complaint calls made to the 311 system. They want to remind residents not to call 911 for fireworks complaints.
The city of Austin puts on an official fireworks display on 4th of July set in downtown at Vic Mathias Shores along Lady Bird Lake.
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