Dry Weather Raises Fireworks Concerns

Fire officials across the coast are more than a little worried as the Fourth of July holiday approaches.

They typically issue fireworks safety advice this time of year. But this year the concerns are more critical. An extreme drought and piles of hurricane debris represent fire hazards this Fourth of July.

"These are four. And these are three or two for five," said a clerk, selling a packet of assorted rockets at Coast Fireworks.

The stand at Washington Avenue and Lemoyne Boulevard carries everything you can imagine in things that boom, sparkle, whistle, fly and blow up for the Fourth of July.

Trouble is, the expected business boom is slow in coming this season. Dry weather may be to blame.

"A lot of confusion out, with the media and everything, a lot of people don't know whether they can purchase them or shoot them," said vendor Shannon Cooper.

"This has a lot of rockets in it. Everything pretty much in this goes up," the clerk explained to a customer considering a family pack.

Fireworks are a tradition for Dorothy Wade's family. Tinder dry conditions mean extra caution.

"Because it's so dry. You know, one little spark can set anything on fire," said Dorothy Wade.

We found most customers aware of the increased fire danger.

"Things are still pretty dry. We don't want to burn the woods up," said one man, as he purchased several packets of bottle rockets.

Ocean Springs firefighters recently battled a woods fire off Hudson Road.

Firefighter David Fisher says the danger is quite real this upcoming holiday.

"Every Fourth of July you know they're going to burn. All it takes is a bottle rocket to spark a little bit on the ground. We're waiting for it to see what happens. Hopefully nothing will go wrong," he said.

There's always been a concern about errant fireworks starting a wildfire. But this year that concern is especially critical given the drought conditions and the hurricane debris which remains in so many coast neighborhoods.

"You're looking at the debris. The fire load that's there. There's no moisture content in this debris. And it's all over," said Fire Chief Mark Hare, as he crunched a pile of pine straw in his hands.

Hare says one little spark can create big trouble. He urges people to use extreme caution when lighting and using fireworks this year.

Hancock was the only coast county to prohibit the sale of fireworks this year. Officials there are concerned about dry conditions and the abundance of hurricane debris.