Independence Day is almost upon us once again, AKA Christmas in July for fireworks aficionados and lovers of all things big, bright and explode-y.
For the second straight year, Houston’s premiere Fourth of July celebration, Freedom Over Texas, will be a primarily digital affair with the usual slate of live concerts broadcast live on ABC 13 and streamed online on July 4. Unlike 2020 however, this year area residents will be allowed to gather in downtown parks like Eleanor Tinsley Park to watch the city’s fireworks show that night.
There are numerous other free fireworks shows Houston area residents can attend this Fourth of July in Bellaire, The Woodlands, Baytown, Kingwood, Tomball, Katy, Sugar Land, Deer Park and Pasadena.
People who love them some pyrotechnics but aren’t interested in hoofing it out to one of the professionally-produced fireworks shows nearby might want to procure some fireworks of their own, but anyone who falls into that category should be aware of when it’s legal to purchase these celebratory explosives and where they can be launched without breaking the law.
Firework stands across Texas were allowed to start hawking their wares on June 24, and can sell fireworks through midnight on July 4 itself. Texans interested in purchasing fireworks this year should be aware that thanks to the pandemic’s effect on the global economy, shipping delays will likely mean fireworks will be in shorter supply and could be a tad pricier than in normal years.
It’s still illegal to shoot off fireworks within the boundaries of any Texas city, but launching them in the unincorporated parts of Harris County and other nearby counties is fair game. The only caveat there is that it’s always illegal to use fireworks within 600 feet of a church, hospital, school or daycare, and within 100 feet of any spot where flammable liquids or fireworks are stored.
It used to be illegal to even possess fireworks within the city of Houston altogether, even if folks were just driving through town with some mortar shells, Black Cats and sparklers in the car headed out for the unincorporated frontier of Harris County. But back in 2013, a new law was passed by the Texas Legislature that allowed Texans to transport fireworks through cities in their cars, as long as the fireworks are in their original sealed packaging and are kept either in the rear of a vehicle, in the trunk or in the glove compartment.
Even though it’s legal to have fireworks in your car, it’s definitely still against the law (in addition to being just plain stupid) to shoot fireworks out of a moving vehicle. It’s also a finable offense for anyone that's drunk or is under the age of 16 to shoot off fireworks.
City and county law enforcement will be out looking for people shooting off fireworks illegally throughout the holiday weekend, and anyone caught breaking any firework-related laws could face fines “anywhere from $500 - $2,000 for each individual firework” according to the Houston Fire Department.
Local fireworks purveyor Sue Davis of Top Dog Fireworks warned local residents interested in lighting a few fuses this holiday weekend to always make sure adults are present, to only use fireworks outside and to always wear eye protection if lighting a firework.
She also cautioned firework launchers to always have a garden hose or bucket of water handy, to only launch one firework at a time and to never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers or toward another person. If a firework doesn't ignite as expected, Davis said never to attempt to re-light it, and to instead wait 15-20 minutes and then soak the dud explosive in a bucket of water.
For all the pet owners out there, make sure you keep your critters tucked away indoors before launching any fireworks at home so they don’t get spooked by the explosions and run off into the night.
On a non-pyrotechnic note, the Houston Press begs that no one take part in the truly idiotic tradition of shooting off guns into the air to celebrate Independence Day (or anything, ever, for that matter). Every year, Texans are injured by celebratory bullets falling back to Earth. During New Year's Eve celebrations in 2020 and 2021, three Texans were killed by reckless gunfire. One was a 61-year-old grandmother and nurse in Houston. Another was a four-year-old boy in Arlington.
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