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Officials ask Texans to forgo fireworks over New Year's weekend

Officials ask Texans to forgo fireworks over New Year's weekend

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DALLAS - After deadly grass fires swept through Texas this week, fire officials warned that residents need to avoid any fire-related activities over the holiday weekend since weather conditions remain prime for new blazes.

TAKING PRECAUTIONS

State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado and Gov. Rick Perry asked Texans to forgo fireworks celebrations over New Year's.

Other precautions include:

• Avoid welding.

• Do not burn trash or other items, even if using approved burn barrels.

• Do not pull vehicles onto roadside patches of grass because the heat could spark a blaze.

• Do not throw cigarette butts from car windows.

With no rain in the forecast and dry, windy conditions expected, fire officials also want residents to think twice about shooting off fireworks to celebrate New Year's Eve.

"Authorities are worried," said Texas Forestry Service spokesman Ron Perry. "Our fire conditions, as far as the grasses and the brush, in all of Texas except for the coast, are in extreme fire danger."

The state emergency operations center instituted its highest level of preparedness Thursday morning, and officials called upon other states for personnel and firefighting equipment. At least 156 Texas counties issued fire bans after blazes earlier in the week destroyed 100 buildings across the state and killed three people.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Moller said conditions were expected to remain dry and windy throughout the weekend with low humidity, especially on Sunday, when a "major storm system" was expected to bring gusts of up to 30 miles per hour in North and Central Texas.

"This'll give us pretty strong winds out of the southwest, which is a drying wind," Moller said. "Sunday's looking to be a very tough day."

Officials said Thursday that they were urging residents to refrain from any outside burning and the use of celebratory fireworks.

"Just the notion of shooting fireworks on New Year's Eve is near blasphemy," Moller said. "People should stay away from fireworks altogether."

The Texas Pyrotechnic Association issued a voluntary ban Thursday against the sale of stick rockets and missiles, which travel farther and are more difficult to control than other types of fireworks.

"I have no ability mandatorily to stop them from doing anything," Texas Pyrotechnic Association President Chester Davis said of state fireworks vendors. "But they are all part of a very conscientious group of men and women that realize we have a very serious problem, and anything we can do to help the state fire marshal and the governor, that's what we're going to do."

State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado issued a release Thursday asking Texans to forgo fireworks celebrations, "particularly aerial fireworks that can start a fire far from where they were originally lit.

"A person using fireworks may not know they have sparked a fire until it's too late," Maldonado said. "The risk of lost lives and homes is simply too high."

Perry said other fire precautions include avoiding welding; not burning trash or other items, even if using approved burn barrels; not pulling vehicles onto roadside patches of grass because the heat could spark a blaze; and not throwing cigarette butts from car windows.

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