FORT WORTH - They’re a Fourth of July tradition, but when do fireworks go too far?
Fireworks are illegal within Fort Worth city limits, and the Fort Worth Fire Department cracked down this Independence Day.
It implemented a new zero-tolerance policy this year, in response to complaints that they weren’t doing enough to rein in illegal fireworks, said spokesman Kyle Clay.
The fire department confiscated hundreds of pounds of fireworks on Wednesday alone.
“That’s a lot of fireworks, and it's substantially more than we’ve had in years past,” Clay said as he looked at a pile of illegal fireworks.
They received 1,560 calls about fireworks from unhappy neighbors on July 4th, a 30 percent increase from last year. The fireworks were confiscated by a fireworks task force, made up of 11 teams of arson investigators paired with police officers.
But they doled out just 48 tickets for those caught in the act. Fines can run up to $4,000.
Eric Sheppard says he heard fireworks in his neighborhood until after midnight. He filled three trash bags July 5th with debris left behind on his Fort Worth street.
“Soon as it hit dark they started going,” said Sheppard. “You sitting there, next thing you know, ‘Pow!’ Sounds like somebody’s right by you with them.”
Sheppard said he enjoys the fireworks, but wants people to be responsible.
“They’re taking chances on burning people’s houses down,” said Sheppard.
Clay says he thinks the increase in calls and confiscated fireworks is due to the new zero tolerance policy and greater awareness of the fireworks hotline.
“When I finally went to bed, it was 1 or 1:30 a.m. and you could still hear it. It was still going,” said Tommy Joe Simmons, who lives just south of downtown.
He didn’t call to complain about the fireworks, but he certainly thought about it. He says the yearly tradition of setting off fireworks in neighborhoods is dangerous. It’s also illegal within city limits for residents to privately set off or possess fireworks.
The Fort Worth Fire Department hopes people remember their zero tolerance policy next year, and shoot fireworks outside city limits instead.
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