Photo by Wade Blake

Although the Coryell County Commissioners Court enacted a burn ban effective at sunset Dec. 14, the use of fireworks in rural areas of the county will not be prohibited.

Gatesville Fire Chief Bill Vaden said dry conditions warranted a burn ban, but that conditions on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), which are used to determine fire potential, were not high enough to legally restrict fireworks use.

He noted that only applied to rural areas. Fireworks use is already prohibited within the city limits of Gatesville.

Vaden said although the burn ban was on the Dec. 14 Commissioners Court agenda, "I'm here for you to vote for rain," he joked. "We are getting to that dry season, and even if it rains I don't see that stopping. I believe it's time for a burn ban."

Commissioners unanimously approved the burn ban but took no action on an agenda item related to prohibiting the sale and use of fireworks in rural parts of the county from Dec. 20 through Jan. 1, 2022.

"With regards to the KBDI, we're not there yet," Vaden told commissioners. "The KBDI has to be at least 575, and we're currently at 489."

He said county officials could consider limiting the use of fireworks that have fins or are attached to sticks, but that he did not recommend that at this time.

"Last year we didn't have any problems (with fires caused by fireworks)," Vaden said. "I recommend we let them shoot (the fireworks). Most people are careful so we should not ban them at this point. I do hope we get some rain before the sale of fireworks begins, but I think we're OK, personally."

County Judge Roger Miller emphasized the need for safe use of fireworks.

"What's important is to get the word out for people to use (fireworks) responsibly," he said.

Vaden said there have been years in the past when the KBDI was approaching 600 or higher, such as in 2011, when it was important to prohibit fireworks use.

"We just want the public to be careful and stay safe," he said. "I don't think at this point we can restrict the use of fireworks in rural parts of the county by law, but they are already restricted within city limits. I encourage the responsible use of fireworks."