More Counties Issue Disaster Declarations

by Victor Lopez
NewWest 9

WEST TEXAS--4th of July celebrations may be dampened in more counties than just Ector, Andrews and Midland.  Judges in Glasscock and Martin counties also issued disaster declarations of their own.

While five counties have already filed and petitioned Governor Perry for assistance, some counties are still undecided.

The main focus of these disaster declarations has obviously been fireworks, but there are other things covered in the judge's executive orders. Ector County Judge Susan Redford, explains, "In that disaster declaration I have noted that the drought index places us at an extreme risk for wildfires caused by fireworks and other combustible materials."

'Other combustible materials' are things people sometimes overlook, when talk of the disaster declaration and 4th of July is concerned.

Judge Redford explained what items qualify in this category, "A combustible material can include anything such as firework, any other activity that results in fire including discarding cigarettes, cigars, or other flammable materials."

Andrews County Judge Richard Dolgener says his fire crews are so overworked, they are ready for some relief, "In Andrews Co., since May 1st, we've had 100 fires in the amount of 18,000 acres."

Within an hour of each other, Andrews, Ector, Midland and Martin County judges, all signed and filed disaster declarations for their respective counties, but there are a couple of counties that aren't going to this extreme, at least not yet.

Howard County Judge Mark Barr tells NewsWest 9, they've been fortunate to have gotten rain recently.  That brings their drought index down low enough that he doesn't feel the need to issue a declaration at this time.

Judge Leo Smith in Terrell County says he's still riding the fence on this issue.  Other than a 50 hour ban from 10 pm July 3rd through the end of the day July 5th, fireworks are allowed in town.  Smith feels if he bans the use of fireworks, that would force people out into the country, where a possible grassfire would be hard if not impossible to get to, before it causes serious damage.

NewsWest 9 has learned, Governor Rick Perry has extended the Andrews and Ector County disaster declarations, through midnight July 4th.  That means there will be no fireworks allowed in either of those counties this year. We expect the same to be true for Midland, Martin, and Glasscock.  

We also feel it's important for you to know, even if fireworks are allowed in your area, you could be held financially liable, under civil law, for any damages caused by a fire that you started, even accidentally.