The Fourth of July is a fun holiday, and a great time for friends and family to get together and celebrate. But if you live in a city like Houston, it's also time for fireworks to appear on the horizon again.
Besides, who doesn't like a horizon full of cool exploding bottle rockets or Roman candles? Well, if you live in a densely populated neighborhood inside the city, the answer is probably "you." There's something disconcerting about hearing random popping sounds in your neighborhood under the best of circumstances, and the realization that neighborhood kids are launching fiery exploding projectiles a few yards from your house is not generally a happy one to contemplate.
So, a few things to consider about fireworks in the city:
6. Fireworks are illegal to use inside the city.
We all know that it's illegal to shoot off fireworks inside the city limits, but lots of people do it anyway. I guess either they're irresponsible idiots or consider it to be one of those minor violations like driving 10 mph over the speed limit. However, Harris County doesn't screw around when it comes to fireworks. According to the city's website, people caught discharging or possessing them inside the city limits can be fined anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for each individual firework. They no longer give warnings, either, and parents or guardians of a minor caught with them will receive the fine even if they were unaware the kid had them.
Getting caught with a pocketful of Black Cats could cost a person more than a mortgage payment, something to keep in mind when lighting up a string of fire crackers in your urban back yard.
5. More pets go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year.
Animal Control officials across the country see a bump of 30% in lost pets between July 4th and 6th, the highest of the year. The biggest culprit in this sad statistic is (you guessed it) fireworks.
The sound of them going off is extremely upsetting to dogs and cats, and a lot of pets escape their homes in a desperate bid to get away from the scary explosions. Keeping in mind that only a small fraction of these lost pets are recovered by their owners, and that many of them end up being euthanized, it sort of takes the cheeriness out of a celebratory volley of bottle rockets fired from the back yard.
Among the suggestions to keep your pets safe and calmer while irresponsible yahoos a few streets over try to illegally re-enact D-Day is to keep your pets inside the whole time, try to make them feel safe and give them lots of attention, act normally (if you're jumpy, your pets will be, too) and try to drown out the noise. Keeping a dog or cat outside while fireworks are likely to be used by some moron down the street is a recipe for sadness.
4. Some idiots also fire off guns on the 4th of July.
Sadly, there are a few absolute morons living in our fair city, and some of them seem to think that the best way to celebrate the 4th is to go fire off a gun in the air, something no responsible gun owner would ever do. There's nothing like the realization that a cretin in your neighborhood has decided to ramp things up a few notches by shooting his shotgun several times at 10:30 at night. The realization that he's probably also very drunk is not a comforting one, since we all know drinking and guns go together like cake and gasoline. July 4th and New Years Eve are prime holidays for the total fools living among us to get their crazy on and to use deadly weapons as a way to keep their party going.
3. What goes up must come down.
Unfortunately, it's that pesky Law of Gravity at work. This one applies to both aerial fireworks like bottle rockets or Roman candles, as well as bullets. Anything fired into the air is going to come down, and sadly those things don't generally disintegrate into harmless faery dust.
When I lived in The Heights area I had many experiences watching fiery embers from exploded rockets falling onto neighboring roofs, and heard what I suspect were bullets landing on my own after some creep fired his gun a block away. Often a rocket would just go completely haywire and land on a roof where it would then explode, saturating the area with sparks. I'd be dialing the cops, hoping that my neighbor's roof wasn't suddenly going to erupt into flames before they could arrive.
2. Fireworks inside the city scare more than pets.
I think people forget that all sorts of folks live in Houston. What some might see as a bit of harmless, if illegal, fun for their kids can be very upsetting for others even if safety wasn't an issue. We have a lot of combat vets coming back with serious PTSD, and I'm sure that hearing their neighborhoods erupt with the sounds of multiple explosions is not a happy moment for them to deal with. I can assure the people that think it's cool to discharge fireworks in city neighborhoods, that they are a minority in that belief, and that their neighbors who don't share a passion for flash and bang would like to see them tarred and feathered.
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People with no consideration for their neighbors should move somewhere they don't have many. One of the nice things about the Houston area is that there are plenty of rural areas outside of town where fireworks are legal to use, and neighbors are sparse.
1. We are having a drought.
Houston and much of Texas is still experiencing a drought, making fireworks a risky way for individuals to celebrate. Besides the possibility of blowing a finger or two off, with a drought going on, folks might also be able to set their neighborhoods on fire. I'm not sure that's really in the spirit of the 4th of July, unless a person is psychotic. There has been recent rain, and that's always welcome. Still, why take a chance for the sake of cheap thrills?
Fireworks can be fun, I get that. I liked them when I was a kid, but I also lived way out in the country. People who want to fire off their own should find someone they know with a country place, and go do their thing. Fortunately for people living in Houston, this years "Freedom Over Texas" event will allow people all over the city to watch a safely produced world class professional fireworks display that's way more impressive than the lame Roman Candle they can buy from some shady looking fireworks stand on Highway 6.