What a difference a year makes.

The Independence Day holiday in 2006 was marred for many in Central Texas because drought conditions prompted widespread restrictions on the sale and use of consumer fireworks. The traditional safety admonitions turned into calls for residents to obey those emergency limitations.

This summer, the weather has swung to the opposite extreme. Heavy rains have led to flooding throughout the state, and as bad as it has been here, conditions are much worse in other parts of Texas. Continued rainfall as included in forecasts for this week could compromise planned fireworks activity during this holiday week.

The normal laws concerning fireworks remain in effect, basically meaning they cannot be used within city limits. But the more restrictive, temporary limits have not been imposed. However, that doesn’t mean the need to ignore safety and courtesy while using consumer fireworks has been lifted.

Fireworks have been part of Independence Day celebrations since the American Revolution. Whether Texans enjoy fireworks they purchase and discharge themselves, or if they watch any of the professionally staged productions planned in area counties Wednesday and at Lake Brownwood Saturday, they are participating in a long-standing American tradition.

But enjoying fireworks means enjoying them responsibly, and that means complying with the restrictions local governing bodies have placed on their use.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety reminds all Americans to use common sense whenever lighting fireworks, to never use illegal explosives, to buy only legal fireworks from established and reputable dealers, to never modify fireworks or to combine them, to not mix alcohol and fireworks, to keep a water hose or water bucket handy, and to never let children handle fireworks. Eye protection should also be worn, fireworks should never be fired inside or near buildings, and these materials should never be thrown, pointed or shot toward someone.

Serious fires can result from the illegal or irresponsible use of fireworks, even though the damp conditions this area has experienced will limit that threat somewhat. But eye injuries are often a consequence of improper fireworks use, as well as painful burns. For many, a happy Fourth of July holiday will start with the proper use of fireworks. Following a few precautions will make the celebration end festively.

Brownwood Bulletin