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Fort Worth officials to examine safety standards after grass fires shut down July 4th fireworks show

Fort Worth fireworks press conference.
Miranda Suarez
/
KERA News
Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis (left) and Jacob Dell, owner of the firework company Magic in the Sky, address the grass fires that forced the city to cancel its July 4th fireworks show.

Fort Worth’s fire chief said officials will take another look at standards for firework safety, after the city’s 4th of July fireworks show at Panther Island Pavilion ended early due to fires.

The show stopped abruptly just a few minutes in, when the fireworks started several grass fires. Video from Fox 4 shows long strands of fire burning along the banks of the Trinity River.

The fire started encroaching on the area set up for the fireworks, Fire Chief Jim Davis said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“That’s when there was a decision to stop it and try to fix the conditions,” Davis said.

Recent dryness made the fires at Panther Island worse, Davis said. About 95% of Tarrant County is in severe drought conditions, with severe threat of wildfire, according to the federal government’s drought tracker.

The Fort Worth Fire Department started Independence Day asking the public to lay off the fireworks, using Twitter to warn about dry conditions and the number of grass fires the department was fighting.

Fort Worth saw 203 grass fires on Monday, data from the fire department shows. That's compared to the 17 grass fires on July 4, 2021.

The fireworks show at Panther Island was still allowed to go on. The Tarrant Regional Water District, which is in charge of Panther Island, had been mowing and wetting the grass around the fireworks site to prevent fires during the show, but high temperatures dried everything back up, Davis explained.

The event was required to follow standards from the National Fire Prevention Association, and those standards focus on weather conditions like wind speeds, but not temperatures during the day, Davis said.

When asked if the city would reconsider the standards it uses to include dry conditions, Davis said the city would "re-look at it.”

“I don’t know that there’s any one thing that I can point to that says we should or shouldn’t have gone forward with the experience for the community last night,” he said.

Davis pointed out that the city had the authority to stop the show, and with cooperation from Magic in the Sky, the fireworks company, it did.

Small fires are common during fireworks shows, Davis said, and while Magic in the Sky had water on hand to put those out, it couldn’t handle the big blazes on its own.

Jacob Dell, owner of Magic in the Sky, told reporters Tuesday that his technicians handled the situation well.

"We’re in the business of entertainment, obviously, but our number one priority is safety,” he said.

Editor’s note: This post was updated to adjust the total number of grass fires for July 4th 2021 and 2022.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Fort Worth reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.