Firefighters warn community to avoid New Year’s fireworks

By Carolyn Cole/Staff Writer

Mustang officials are worried residents setting New Year’s fireworks could spark a grass fire reminiscent of the blaze which consumed several homes a year ago.

Fire Chief Carl Hickman said residents may not know fireworks are illegal in Mustang except from June 26 - July 4, in honor of Independence Day.

“The vegetation is dormant — it’s not green like it would be on the Fourth of July,” he said. “With the winds and the dormant vegetation, it’s extremely dangerous.”

Police Capt. Willard James said police have already responded to a couple of fireworks calls. Officers are issuing $84 citations for anyone caught using fireworks.

With a looming drought, brittle vegetation and Oklahoma’s high winds, Hickman said a ticket could be the least of their worries. He said several residents are still rebuilding and picking up their lives after the Dec. 27, 2005 fire consumed 285 acres through fields and eastern neighborhoods in Mustang. Although the cause of that blaze was undetermined, Hickman said the community is one spark away from a property and life endangering wildfire.

“By the very nature, how fireworks are constructed, they are going to produce fire,” he said.

While the community has seen rain in recent weeks, meteorologists have said it did little to dent the drought. Central Oklahoma is on average almost a foot below the regional average for rainfall, the eighth severest drought on record. To provide any relief, the area needs several heavy rains.

In winter months, rain provides a short reprieve from fire conditions, Hickman said, adding high fire risk conditions will continue until spring.

“(Rain) wets the ground, then the wind picks up dries the vegetation and the ground out, and we are right back in a high fire danger even though we had rain,” he said.

Hickman urged area residents to take steps to protect their property in case of fire. Residents should:

  • Keep grass mowed low. Trim cedar trees high enough so if a fire occurs, flames sweep below the limbs.
  • Clean property of combustibles — dried leaves and other debris. Keep woodpiles stored away from homes and outbuildings.
  • Clear leaves and debris out of gutters and off roofs.
  • Make sure homes have a working smoke detector.
  • Have chimneys inspected and cleaned before using them. Other heating appliances should also be inspected periodically to make sure they are functioning properly.

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