Special to the E-T

COLLEGE STATION - Fireworks and outdoor activities are commonly linked to Fourth of July celebrations, but Texas Forest Service (TFS) warns that carelessness with fireworks and other outdoor activities can lead to a wildfire.

With summer in full swing, grass, shrubs and trees are starting to dry out. These dry “fuels” and an errant spark from fireworks or a grill is all that is needed to start a devastating wildfire.

“Many Texans use fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July,” TFS Fire Operations Chief Mark Stanford said. “TFS encourages Texans to use fireworks safely. Citizens should be diligent in protecting themselves and their property from accidental wildfires.”

Sandra Taylor, TFS fire prevention specialist I, says citizens should keep fireworks away from homes and structures, which can be accidently ignited. She says there are a few tips you should adhere to when using fireworks.

“Fireworks should only be used under close adult supervision and in safe areas, away from grass and brush,” said Taylor. “A water hose, bucket of water and wet towels should be kept nearby in case they are needed to stop small fires. Used fireworks should be disposed of in a bucket of water.”

Other outdoor activities also can lead to dangerous wildfires if you are not careful. Here are a few tips to keep you and the outdoors safe when grilling and camping.

• Build campfires in open, level spots away from trees and overhanging branches; preferably in designated fire rings or fire receptacles.

• Never leave a campfire or cooking fire unattended and extinguish your fire completely before leaving it.

• When dry, windy conditions occur while dead grass, weeds and/or leaves are present, consider using a propane stove or barbecue grill instead of an open fire for cooking. Your fire is not safe to leave until it is cool enough to touch.

• Put barbecue grills over bare dirt or other fire resistant surfaces - well away from dead grass and weeds. Completely extinguish coals and ashes with water. Never transport a barbecue pit or grill with live coals.

As always, you should check with your local government officials or fire departments to make sure fireworks and campfires are allowed in your county. Be sure to comply with all fireworks restrictions - they are in place to help prevent wildfires.

Under Texas law, the authority to restrict fireworks and implement burn bans is left up to county government officials. TFS does not make decisions regarding restrictions on fireworks or outdoor burning bans. The state agency does, however, provide drought condition information to counties.

To learn more about wildfire prevention and how to protect yourself and your home, go to http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=1542.