BE CAUTIOUS: Sheriff reminds public to stay safe during Fourth

·3 min read

Jun. 28—Though a burn ban remains in effect throughout Ector County, residents will still be able to light off fireworks in celebration of the Fourth of July.

Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis expressed the importance of celebrating safely during a phone interview with the Odessa American.

"It's absolutely imperative that people exercise good common sense when they are shooting fireworks off," Griffis said. "I would suggest that people who are firing them off in their yards to make sure their yard is mowed as short as they can possibly get it, have a water source handy and try not to be near an open lot where no water source is available.

"The way the wind has been this year. We don't know what the wind will be doing during that time where people are going to be firing these off. These dry conditions and wind is like pouring gasoline on a fire. That stuff can take off extremely fast and it's hard to stop. People need to use good common sense."

Safety is also a message that Taylor Thompson, who operates a TNT Fireworks location in West Odessa, relays to his patrons.

"We want to give people an opportunity to have fun, be with family and celebrate the Fourth of July," Thompson said. "We are encouraging them to do it safely."

On Tuesday, Ector County Commissioners will consider extending the current 90-day burn ban. The extension is likely as commissioners have previously unanimously voted in April to extend a local declaration of local disaster related to wildfires.

The Odessa American previously reported Ector County Judge Debi Hays said the declaration doesn't have an end date. She explained the commissioners will have to vote again to end the declaration, but she said that won't happen until after the wildfire season is over.

Thompson, who graduated from Permian High School in 2015, said he knows people have been going through tough times over the last two years whether it's the pandemic or more recently inflation.

Though many of his patrons know where they can and can't shoot fireworks, Thompson said he makes sure to reiterate that message. Thompson said he can continue to sell until midnight on the Fourth of July.

"Most people have a pretty good understanding and there will be people that ask," Thompson said. "We are always very adamant that anything inside city limits, you can't do it."

According to an ordinance by the City of Odessa, fireworks can't be sold, possessed or popped inside city limits. Fireworks can be sold, possessed or popped inside Ector County outside the city limits of Odessa.

Griffis explained a person should have written permission from the landowner if they are popping fireworks in that lot. He said it's illegal to pop fireworks on the side of the road.

"If you are shooting fireworks on someone else's property and it's not yours, you need to have written permission from the individual that owns that property," Griffis said. "If you don't own it and you don't know who owns it and you don't have permission to be there, you are trespassing."

According to State Fire Marshal Orlando Hernandez, he detailed in a Texas Department of Insurance press release about not letting children handle fireworks. The press release states that it includes sparklers, which can burn at temperatures of nearly 2,000 degrees. Sparklers can quickly cause third-degree burns.

"Do not let children handle fireworks," Hernandez stated in the press release. "There are no safe fireworks for children."