OPINION COLUMNS

Celebrate safely this Independence Day holiday

By Brian Knox | Published Sunday, July 3, 2011

Judging from the number of phone calls to both the newsroom and apparently the sheriff’s office as well, there has been much confusion over the shooting of fireworks in Wise County this weekend.

Wise County is in a burn ban, and typically fireworks are banned during a burn ban that is called prior to June 15.

Brian Knox

But unlike some other surrounding counties that have a “no burning” rule, our county is a little different. Our burn ban is only in effect during red flag warning days.

A red flag warning is issued when weather conditions exist that could result in extreme burning conditions. Typical conditions that would warrant a red flag warning is sustained winds of 15 miles per hour or more, relative humidity less than or equal to 25 percent and a temperature greater than 75 degrees.

So to answer the question, “Can I shoot fireworks this weekend?” the answer is yes, with a caveat. If a red flag warning is issued by the National Weather Service, then fireworks won’t be allowed.

Speaking of July 4 weather conditions, do you know what year the Dallas/Fort Worth area had its hottest Independence Day? That would be 1996, when temperatures reached 105 degrees. Just a couple of years ago, in 2009, temperatures reached 101 degrees, tied for the third-highest on record.

The wettest July 4 was in 2006, when DFW received 1.31 inches of precipitation. That is the only year the area saw more than an inch of rain on that date.

By the way, the NWS precipitation stats also include a category for snow. Shockingly, none has ever been recorded.

Other odd notes from the NWS website: on the date of the record high in 1996, strong thunderstorms developed in our area, creating 80-mile-per-hour winds in Krum. It was noted that a small calf was lifted for a short period of time and landed in a nearby pasture.

The local forecast calls for temperatures near or at 100 degrees again over the next few days. There is nothing in the forecast about the possibilities of bovines taking flight.

So while the temperatures may be hot again this year, and there is still a chance that a red flag day might spoil some fireworks fun, one thing is certain: you can still show your patriotism at the Independence Day program at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park at 10 a.m. Monday.

The event, which may be the first of its kind in Wise County for a July 4 event, will feature area mayors, councilmembers and community leaders taking turns reading parts of the Declaration of Independence. Alvord’s Jennifer Ward will sing the National Anthem and America the Beautiful.

If you take a drive out to Oaklawn Cemetery this weekend, you might notice the U.S. flags placed on the graves of veterans. Local Girl Scouts, with the assistance of the Wise County Veterans Group, placed the flags on the graves Friday to honor those who died to keep our country the free and independent nation that was the vision of those who signed the historic document 235 years ago.

Finally, if you do celebrate, do so responsibly. Celebration can turn to tragedy in the blink of an eye.

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