News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Gallegos bill address pyrotechnics

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX – Seeking to avert a tragedy similar to the one in a Rhode Island club last week that left dozens dead after a pyrotechnic display erupted into a deadly fire, Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) today announced filing of SB 693 to address this issue.

"My heart and prayers go out to the victims and families of the victims of the recent tragedy in Rhode Island," said Gallegos. "Unfortunately, tragedies of a magnitude like these happen and it is up to the leadership to make sure they don't happen again."

Gallego, who served as a firefighter in the Houston Fire Department for 22 years, said he took a "long, hard look at pyrotechnic standards cities and counties have implemented" for local clubs and gatherings. He said there is no real standard for pyrotechnics for large gatherings such as concerts or large events.

"SB 693 is a good starting point for a discussion and possible solution," he said, noting it provides statewide guidelines for pyrotechnic use and fire effects where there are crowds. Gallegos said he has worked with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senate State Affairs Chair Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant) "to craft a solution that is best for Texas."

The bill will provide uniform standards for the use of indoor fire effects and pyrotechnics. Gallegos said the bill is intended to establish a basic process so that any group wanting fire effects must apply for permit that must be approved by the fire marshal in city or county. In counties in which there is no fire marshal, a permit would go through the local fire district.

If a permit were granted, a fire watch would be in place when the show starts, to allow for instant response to a fire or unintended effect.

Penalty for failure to comply will result in a criminal offense with a monetary fine and jail term as in a Class A misdemeanor. Gallegos said the bill is not intended to supercede any city or county that already provides such protections. Instead, he said, "The intent of the bill is to ensure the safety and welfare of all Texans" and prevent a tragedy such as the one that occurred in Rhode Island.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Frank Madla (D-San Antonio) said he is "excited" about co-authoring the bill "because it covers an area that is really essential."

"You can say this is an effort to prevent something from happening rather than waiting for an accident to happen and then adjusting to the situation," said Madla.

Dewhurst, who briefly attended the press conference, congratulated Gallegos and Madla "for responding very, very promptly to this issue." He said he had asked Ratliff as State Affairs chairman to look into the issue "to protect future lives in the state of Texas."

"They came in promptly with a bill that sets standards that won't have changes in our building codes but protects lives," said the lieutenant governor.