VIEW, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Not quite six weeks after the Mesquite Heat Fires were tamed, View residents say they fear another large outburst could occur at the hands of stray firework sparks.
No doubt it has been dryer than a bone across the Big Country, and so hot in southern Taylor County that even the dreaded fire ants won’t come out of their tunnels.
As you walk through the grass, it crunches beneath every footstep, and with little to no significant rain in the near future, it could make this 4th of July very interesting.
“This year, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said View resident, Sandra Richards. “We’re under a burn ban, it’s such a surprise they’re going to allow fireworks.”
Richards told KTAB/KRBC she’s lived on her hilltop property just north of View for 30-years, able to see the damage caused by the Mesquite Heat Fires from her front porch.
Just three miles from the heart of the damage, she evacuated, leaving everything but her personal items, heirlooms and her pets behind.
Now, Richards says she sits and watches the hill tops find a little green on them, but mostly from the hundreds of mesquite and cedar trees that managed to survive the flames.
However, even though there is some green left, she worries that this 4th of July holiday weekend, another catastrophe could occur on or near here longtime homestead.
“I just kind of look around at everything and say, ‘oh well, what do you do,'” pondered Richardson. “You don’t do anything.”
Richards’ property has one way in and one way out. Surrounded by those same rugged mesquite and cedars, but also acres of dead grass waiting to catch if a spark were to fly.
Each year, Richardson said she can hear and see the flashing colorful lights caused by large aerial fireworks down their county road, as the hot cases and sparks slowly fall onto her and her neighbor’s properties.
“Every 4th of July we’re afraid to leave our home, because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Charlotte Longley said.
Charlotte and Kenneth Longley live right down the road from Richards, and said without a doubt, they will see fireworks shot onto their property every year.
While they know a cigarette butt, a shard of glass or anything in between can spark a flame, it’s fireworks being lit off down their secluded county roads that bring them the most stress.
“We’ve got no place to go,” Mrs. Longley said. “If we could not get down the hill, the only place we could go would be our metal shop. The smoke would collect there and there’s that’s all you [can] do.”
Mr. Longley said he hopes to see all fireworks banned from Taylor County, especially after the damages accrued during the Mesquite Heat Fires.
“You know, if you want to come out and pop firecrackers know this may be open country, but people live out here,” Kenneth said. “This is the land they used to for an income and you can’t just burn it off expect everything to be alright.”
Referring to all of the livestock and game animals lost during the Mesquite Heat Fires, Mr. Longley said it’s not just the animals, crops and homes he worries about. But also the damage sustained to the local volunteer fire department’s equipment.
While they said they hope and pray a last minute fireworks ban can be implemented, the deadline to make such a decision has come and gone. The deadline for county commissioner’s was on June 15, and they banned aerial fireworks on June 7. Aerial fireworks are defined as ‘skyrockets with sticks’ and other items classified as ‘rockets’ or ‘missiles.’
According to the Order Prohibiting the Sale and Use of Aerial Fireworks, celebrators not in compliance with the order can be fined up to $500.
Just east of Taylor County, Eastland County made a declaration of disaster and prohibited the sale and use of all fireworks.