KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
July 2, 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
City of Katy officials and its surrounding communities share their top must-knows for Katy families before celebrating July 4th.
Know the Law
The first step in your fireworks education is to know and understand the laws of your county. Katy is part of Harris, Fort Bend, and Waller counties with neighborhoods spanning more than one, as well as being located in the City of Katy proper and unincorporated areas.
Residents in the City of Katy
Fireworks are strictly forbidden inside the City of Katy limits. Now that doesn't mean you can't enjoy them. There are a number of Katy-area events going on to celebrate the Fourth this year.
"This 4th of July holiday please remember that fireworks are illegal within the City of Katy city limits," says City of Katy Fire Marshal, Gregg Peterson. "We want you to enjoy this holiday in a safe manner."
City of Katy officials reminded residents on social media about the fireworks restrictions and invited people to celebrate the holiday with them at approved locations.
The fines range from $25-$200 and adults supervising minors who participate in illegal fireworks will be fined as well.
Unincorporated areas in Harris and Fort Bend County
Fireworks are legal in both Harris and Fort Bend counties (outside of Katy proper). Unless a fire ban has been declared, responsible residents are permitted to set them off in a safe place.
So What Can You Do?
What are "legal fireworks"? Basically most fireworks sold at fireworks stands are legal. However, it's important to confirm that the stand is certified and licensed. The vendor should have that documentation visibly posted. If you don't see this certification, ask them to produce it. Avoid vendors selling fireworks out of an unmarked truck or on the side of the road that do not have a certified stand.
"Please use common sense," explains Lieutenant Simon VanDyk of Harris County Emergency Services. "If your fireworks have an extra boom from others, then something may not be right."
Fireworks Safety Tips
1. Open Area and Distance - Make sure you are in an open area. You can be in your street but make sure you are not setting off fireworks up against a house. Fireworks can not be set off within 600 feet of a school (even if it's not in session,) church, hospital or gas station. Do NOT set off fireworks indoors.
2. Read Instructions- Yes, this may sound simple but it is one of the most important safety tips.
"My family loves those ladybug fireworks. They spin and then shoot up in the air," says VanDyk. "If someone failed to read the instructions they could easily get themselves and others in trouble for being too close when they shoot up."
If you have questions don't be afraid to ask when buying the fireworks. Most of the employees at the fireworks stands will know all about what they are selling.
3. Not for Children - Fireworks are pretty and festive when celebrating our nation's birthday, but they do come with risk. Lighting fireworks should be left to adults. Kids can enjoy and watch but safety should always come first. Older can learn to light fireworks but always with supervision.
4. Alcohol and Fireworks Don't Mix - Be responsible and let those adults not drinking light the fireworks.
"Lighting fireworks is no different than having a designated driver. Alcohol will slow your reaction time and that time could result in injury when lighting fireworks," says VanDyk.
5. Water to the Rescue - When setting off fireworks, ALWAYS have a water source nearby, then soak all fireworks debris before throwing them out.
"We will have a number of garage fires on the 5th because people tossed something in the trash," says VanDyk. "In most cases these are responsible people who truly believed they had put out any fire, but it only takes one little simmering ember to ignite a fire. It's not out until you've doused it."
Don't be afraid to dump water on fireworks debris, or even soak them in a bucket of water overnight.
"A fire can start up to 12 hours after you believe it is out," cautions VanDyk.
The Danger of Sparklers
"Every year, young children can be found along parade routes and at festivals with sparklers in hand, but sparklers are a lot more dangerous than most people think" cautions Peterson.
Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees and that's hot enough to melt some metals. They can quickly ignite clothing, and children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. "According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries," says Peterson. "For children under 5 years of age, sparklers accounted for nearly half of the total estimated injuries."
For a safer options, parents can consider glow sticks, confetti poppers, or colored streamers.
Don't Forget Your Pets
"More pets get lost on July 4th than any other time of the year," says Peterson. "Pets don’t like fireworks. Dogs have sensitive hearing and the loud noise of fireworks can cause anxiety and panic among pets."
Do not bring your pet(s) to a fireworks show.
Bring outside pets inside and preferably to an interior room.
Make sure that your pets have current tags on their collar as well as microchipping just in case they get out.
"Fireworks terrify pets! Don’t be that person that caused your neighbor’s dog or your dog to run away," says Peterson.
Have fun this Fourth of July, but be safe, and call your local authorities if you need help. Keep in mind that while certain Home Owners Associations prohibit fireworks, only the HOA can enforce that rule, not the police or the fire department.
Be a Good Neighbor
Now you are refreshed on the rules it's also important to note firework etiquette. While the below aren't "rules" they are common sense practices that make us all good neighbors.
Timing: Only light fireworks up to 2 hours after sunset, so end the show before midnight. Anything later is a disruption to those neighbors trying to sleep.
Prepare: Let your neighbors know if you plan to shoot off fireworks so they can prepare children and pets for the noise.
Be Tidy: Clean up ALL fireworks debris, including trash that fell in neighbors' yards.
Night Only: Do not light fireworks in the day. They don't show up so it's a waste of your money and neighbors could be alarmed by the loud, unexpected (explosive) noise.
Respect the Date: While fireworks are fun to watch, remember they commemorate a historical date for our country. Setting off fireworks between July 3-5 is acceptable to honor the holiday.
If your neighborhood permits residential fireworks, where's you favorite stand and what are your favorite kinds of fireworks to purchase? Let us know in the comments!
Want to leave the fireworks to the professionals? Are you still looking for a Katy Fourth of July event to attend? Check out these options.