About those holiday season fireworks scofflaws

Street fireworks (Image credit: pxhere.com / CC BY 2.0)

Well, here we are at the start of a new decade! We at blogHOUSTON hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and New Year holiday season.

I personally spent New Years Eve at home. Some friends had wanted to get together to watch fireworks at City Centre, but that fell apart. As it was, I didn’t need to go anywhere to see fireworks go off. You see, some of my neighbors decided to entertain the neighborhood on their own dime.

Over the past few years, I’ve begun to notice that my small corner of Houston has been celebrating every Fourth of July, and every Christmas and New Years holiday season in an ever more raucous manner. This holiday season featured on-and-off fireworks being shot off at random times on Christmas day, while on New Years Eve the excitement started soon after dark and continued on and off until about 2:00 am on New Years Day. And, it seems Houston was not the only place where revelers went hog wild shooting off fireworks. I spotted this story from one of my friends in San Antonio which literally shows the entire city lighting up at the dawn of the New Year.

Now, every year the sanctimonious political and ruling classes give big lectures on how shooting off fireworks within the City of Houston boundaries is illegal. Penalties are $500 per firework and only go up. However, the fact that countless numbers of people within earshot of where I live keep setting off fireworks during the holiday season brings up a number of questions:

  1. Do people really know there is a ban on setting off fireworks within the City’s boundaries? If so, do they care?
  2. What would be the cost to taxpayers to seriously enforce the ban on fireworks in the City? Does the public want to see plenty of television and social media footage of Houston residents being hauled off to prison because they set off some firecrackers?
  3. Some of you may be tempted to tell me that I need to become a good neighborhood Nazi, and rat on the people in my neighborhood who are setting off fireworks. You know, like if you see something, then say something. But who wants to be known as the neighborhood snitch? Having snitching neighbors is the sort of thing that regularly happens in totalitarian countries like China, but happens too often in America. (Argument number 3 is also predicated on the idea that not only will I know the date on which firecrackers are going to be set off, but the exact time and place at which people in my neighborhood are going to set them off so that I can catch them – this is foolish).
  4. The City of Houston encompasses over 650 square miles of territory, much of it being low-density urban development, with over 2 million residents. How exactly is the City supposed to enforce fireworks bans on holidays over such a vast area, particularly when so much effort is also being invested in DWI enforcement (and the more dangerous shooting of guns in the air!) at the same time?

So what to do here? I would suggest a policy of benign neglect. Let people have their fun setting off firecrackers, and if by chance something bad does actually happen (and exactly how many times has shooting off firecrackers led to buildings being set on fire?), then residents can actually call the fire department to put the fire out. Then, the Houston Fire Department can subsequently send the city residents who called them out a big fat bill for putting the fire out. Billing city residents somewhere between several hundred to a few thousand dollars ought to be enough to do the trick, sort of what like the City does for providing emergency ambulance services.

That’s enough for today. I hope your New Year has gotten off to a great start!