The City of Austin has adopted an ordinance forbidding the storage, use and handling of fireworks within the City of Austin and within 5,000 feet outside the city limits. The Austin Fire Department has aggressively sought compliance with this ordinance.
The Austin Fire Department’s fireworks abatement campaign has evolved over the years. Initially, it consisted of sending an engine and a truck company to all reported fireworks violations. This response was very burdensome on the emergency response system and the 911 dispatchers -- often resulting in removing emergency response apparatus away from their normal areas. In the late 1990s, AFD decided to change its approach.
A fireworks hotline was established for callers to report non-emergency fireworks violations. AFD inspectors and APD officers were available to be dispatched in teams of two each, in an APD marked unit. These units were dispatched from the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staffed City personnel ranging in job responsibilities from call takers, runners, and dispatchers to a Division Chief. This campaign was conducted from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. on the Fourth of July and in many cases, the days proceeding and following the holiday.
With the advent of the new 311 system, the fireworks abatement campaign has become a more APD-oriented operation. Police department units now are dispatched from the non-emergency line. The call takers no longer are required to staff EOC, and the 911 system no longer is flooded with calls regarding fireworks violations. The Austin Fire Department has a presence on the streets, and the Fire Marshal’s Office still issues citations for violating the fireworks ordinance, and vigorously prosecuted persons responsible for starting fires as a result of fireworks.