Concern over buying fireworks closer to city limits

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ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Friday is the first day to buy fireworks for this Fourth of July, and Coleen Yantis is stocking up. Her family operates a stand for American Fireworks in Round Rock, and this year they’re in a new spot, at the northeast corner of Old Settlers Boulevard and A.W. Grimes Boulevard.

“The clients that we had so far this morning, were like this is amazing,” explains Yantis.

A new law taking effect this year, allows fireworks stands to move closer to cities. The old law required fireworks stands to be 5,000 feet, about a mile away, from city limits. But now they can be right across the street.

Assistant Chief Billy Wusterhausen with the Round Rock Fire Department worries the closer stands will encourage more illegal activity.

“My concern with the change in the law is that people will see them being sold there and will think if they can sell them there then we should be able to use them here,” says Wusterhausen.

But you can’t. You still have to be 5,000 feet away from city limits to set off fireworks.

Firefighters are now anticipating even more calls this year. Last fourth of July weekend, they responded to three grass fires and 91 reports of people illegally using fireworks

“We bring on extra staffing, both to handle the fire hazard itself, but also to help with the enforcement and we still can’t respond to all of the fireworks calls in a timely manner,” says Wusterhausen.

But for Yantis, who supports her family with fireworks sales, she welcomes the change.

“Of course it’s great for us, we’re really excited to see what this year brings.”

Firefighters also point out, even if you are 5,000 feet from the city limits, you still can’t shoot off fireworks in places like parking lots or land that’s not yours, unless of course you get permission.

Two years ago local crews responded to dozens of fires on July 4 weekend, and in some cases fireworks were to blame.

One Austin family was left with a scar on their home after sparklers weren’t properly thrown away in the trash can. Everyone inside made it out safely, but their gate was destroyed. Just a few blocks away, another house caught fire after fireworks swept over a fence and landed on a deck.

That same holiday weekend Austin firefighters put out six house fires and 15 grass fires. Travis County fire crews responded to 57 brush fires.

If you are caught with fireworks inside the city limits you could face of fine of more than $5,000. But if your fireworks hurt someone or cause property damage, you could be charged with assault or even arson.

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