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Fort Worth reports more than 250 grass fires on July 4

Questions remain after grass fires sparked during Panther Island fireworks show
Questions remain after grass fires sparked during Panther Island fireworks show 02:39

FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - After Fort Worth's holiday fireworks event was stopped due to grass fires breaking out, the city fire chief said Tuesday he didn't know if there was any one thing to say the event should or should not have ever started.

The grass fires on the Trinity River levees around Panther Island were some of more than 250 reported in the city during July 4 and the early morning hours of July 5. The overwhelming numbers forced the department to triage the situation, asking callers and online reporters for more details on fires, so crews could prioritize which ones to respond to.

Fire Chief Jim Davis had been concerned about dry conditions and fireworks for more than a month leading up to July 4, but said Tuesday organizers for the public show had prepared according to national fire protection standards.

The Tarrant Regional Water District had mowed the grass to four inches and watered down the set up area with sprinklers and a pump truck.

Grass fires are common during large fireworks displays, Davis said, and usually extinguished quickly by pyrotechnic crews. However, they ran out of water they use, six to seven minutes into the show Monday.

"Then the fires stared impinging on the mortars, the cakes, the fireworks themselves that actually get shot," Davis said.

Fire and water damage to the mortars, forced the show to be cancelled, out of concern for potential misfires that could impact spectators or personnel at the site.

Around the city most of the brush fires were small, many put out by residents before firefighters could ever get there.

Davis said investigators were looking into the possibility one fire that damaged an apartment building near Western Center Boulevard on the north side may have started with a sparkler. 

In Tarrant County, Fire Marshal Randy Renois said there were 32 reported grass fires related to fireworks, with one that was maybe over an acre in size. 

Renois said there was one serious injury, in the south end of the county around Rendon. A mortar tub fell over and the projectile hit a man, who had to be flown to a hospital in a helicopter.

MedStar reported treating three patients. One had a burn, another had an eye injury and one was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital for a significant hand injury.

Davis said the city also wrote more than 30 citations for possessing or igniting fireworks in city limits. That far outpaces the 2021 total of four, and comes after city council members had encouraged public safety to write more tickets.

There may be as many as 40 additional citations coming, through a new effort to use technology to go after violators. Fire officials said last week they planned to try to combine information from fireworks complaints, with video from a network of city cameras and license plate scans to identify violators and mail them citations.

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