West Texas Fire Officials Praise Gov. Perry's Declaration

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

WEST TEXAS--Just because vendors aren't selling fireworks this year, doesn't necessarily mean there won't be any danger of grass fires caused by them.  And it's that possibility that will keep firefighters on high alert.

West Odessa Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis says, for them, this will be just another 4th of July, "We're going to be on stand-by, just like any other 4th of July.  We're going to treat it like the worst and hope for the best."

Ellis says he is glad that Governor Perry extended the disaster declaration in Ector County.  That's a sentiment echoed by Midland County Fire Marshall Dale Little, "I believe the extension of the disaster declaration was a very good move.  It's going to assist, protecting the citizens of the community, all the county, and even our surrounding counties by helping stop some of the range fires or wild land fires that we potentially would have."

Although the declaration makes it illegal to do so, officials are saying they expect some people to set off fireworks anyway.  Ellis has a warning for them, "I know people have some left over or they bought some somewhere else, but they need to remember, if they get caught with them this year, the Sheriff's Department is going to write them a ticket."

But that's not all.  Dale Little wants you to know, you start a fire, you could be paying a much higher price for your actions, "If they set a fire, they will be cited again.  If there are injuries, they will be filed on, up to jail time."

Little goes on to say, the disaster declaration is all about protecting life, property, and the environment.  But of all of these, saving lives comes first, "Look at all the safety responders that have to run.  Every time you have to run, you're putting your life in your hands, and you're taking a chance on hurting someone else.  We don't want to take that chance this year."

This is just one more thing Little and Ellis are in total agreement over, "We are a powder keg waiting for a spark.  If one spark is all it's going to take to burn somebody's house down, what kind of celebration would that be.  Somebody loses their life because of it?  It's not worth it."

If you have nothing to do this 4th of July, fire officials in all counties recommend you check out whatever festivities your particular city may have planned.  It's just another way to make this an enjoyable and safe holiday for everyone.