BELL COUNTY, Texas — Despite a disaster declaration order that bans personal use and sales of fireworks in Bell County, Judge David Blackburn reassured the public that city-held Independence Day firework shows will still go on.
On Wednesday, Blackburn signed the order that bans sales or usage of fireworks in the county without a permit issued by the Bell County Fire Marshal. It's expected to remain in full force until the Bell County Burn Ban is lifted, which is scheduled for July 11, but it could be extended, Blackburn said.
He explained that the burn ban and the disaster declaration were both due to severe drought conditions the county is currently experiencing.
According to the Keetch-Byram Drough Index, Bell County is at 619. Anything over 600 is considered an "extreme fire danger."
"That number indicates it's very, very dry and the occurrence of wildfires is very likely," Blackburn said.
Within the past week, 33 wildfires were reported in the county; a total of 72 wildfires sparked in June.
"The wildfires we are currently experiencing highlight the need, in my view, to set the prohibition in place," Blackburn explained. "The soul purpose... is to protect persons and property and public safety... that is hopefully what we'll achieve here."
Blackburn did reassure the public, however, that city-held fireworks shows should still be ok if their permit applications are approved.
"Those are two very big differences in a public display in fireworks and private display," he said.
He explained that cities hosting the shows -- rather than personal recreational use -- will have trained pyrotechnicians running them and support from fire departments on site in case of any fires.
Blackburn, who stressed how he also loves fireworks, encouraged people who want to watch fireworks to go to any local city that will follow the order.
Those who are caught violating the order will either get a fine of up to $1,000 or receive jail time for up to 180 days, according to the document.
Watch the news conference below: