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Rural Residents Don't Want Fireworks This Year

When Wichita County Commissioners announced there would not be a county-wide ban on fireworks this year, it stirred up some mixed emotions.  Many people were excited since they weren't able to shoot off fireworks last year, but others had a different opinion.
    Rural county residents are voicing their concerns about the dangers of fireworks starting wildfires in their neighborhoods.
    And volunteer firefighters say they have every reason to be concerned.
    Firework sales in Texas started Sunday and county officials have already responded to several fires caused by fireworks.
    "It is extremely dry out there.  [A spark from fireworks] could cause a grass fire," Deputy Melvin Joyner with the Wichita County Sheriff's Office says.
    Setting off fireworks in Wichita County is legal this year, but some residents who live outside city limits wish otherwise.
    Adam Brinkman, chief of the Wichita West VFD, says, "There's a general concern.  This is people's personal property and there's a chance it could be damaged by negligence."
    "There's a lot of wheat that's been cut.  Those fields are very vulnerable to fire as well.  Once they get started, it wouldn't take long to burn several hundred acres," Joyner says.
    That's one reason why the Wichita County Sheriff's Office is increasing the number of deputies patrolling this weekend.
    "We want to watch the areas around Freedom Fest and Sheppard Air Force Base.  We'll be patrolling around 240, Burkburnett Road, the Cashion community, and just about everywhere around the base," Joyner says.
    They'll be looking for people illegally shooting fireworks, including those who go on someone's property without their permission.
    They'll also be on the lookout for drunk drivers, those who are intoxicated in public, and people leaving the fireworks leftovers and not cleaning up the mess.
    Officials say to make sure you aren't slapped with a hefty littering fine, make sure you properly dispose of fireworks.
    "Wait 15 to 20 minutes after you discharge them to make sure they're completely discharged, douse them with water, and simply throw them away," Brinkman says.
    Wichita Falls police want to reinforce that it's illegal to possess or discharge fireworks in city limits.
    That offense is punishable by a fine up to $2,000.
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