Officials on Alert for New Year's Fires

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - With little to no rain and very dry conditions across the Permian Basin, Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis of the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department has reason to worry.

"If the wind lies down pretty good, we'll be alright," Ellis said. "But if it picks up and stays up like it is, one spark could be a disaster."

Although fireworks are banned inside city limits, that doesn't stop the danger outside the city.

"Everything's primed and ready for some bad fires," Ellis said. "Out here, the way people let the grass and weeds grow, it's possible."

And New Year's celebrations could mean big trouble for Chief Ellis and his crew, but they're prepared for whatever comes their way.

"We've got the fuel checked, all the trucks have been checked," he said. "We'll stay up here until about two or three o'clock in the morning just watching things."

But the fire department has an unlikely ally on their side. The folks at Truckload Fireworks decided to open their booths for just three days because of the dry conditions.

"It is safer, we have more families coming out, more company parties," manager Brad Frazier said. "There's more adult supervision versus being open the whole week and a half and having umpteen kids coming out and buying firecrackers."

The fire department hopes everyone will safely ring in the New Year.

"A little fire extinguisher, a shovel. Anything can make a difference in slowing one down until we can get there and put it out," Ellis said.

And the vendors agree.

"If one spark catches, it's very quick and that ruins everybody's holidays," Frazier said. "Fires are no fun."

Here are just a few more safety tips: Never hold the fireworks in your hands, instead make sure they are on the ground, let adults light the fireworks and always make sure you have a water hose or an extinguisher with you in case a fire does break out.