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Patrols Planned After Fireworks Show Snafu

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
Bud is the most veteran reporter at CBS 11 News with 42 years in m...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Hot weather and dry grass combined to force a temporary halt to last night’s “Fort Worth Fourth Fireworks” show when the pyrotechnics touched off grass fires.

One of the biggest fireworks shows in the area,  it came to a halt when flames threatened not only the grass, but as Javier Balderrama told CBS 11 News, also trees. “I guess about halfway through a fire… they had to shut the place down,” he said. “There were some trees that went up in the blaze last night; pretty intense.” Balderrama’s friend, Fabian Salas, said he could literally feel the fireworks.

“Some of the fireworks were so intense you could feel the heat when they burst; you just felt the heat wave.”

Two brush trucks and a bomb expert were on the scene per existing safety protocol, according to fire department spokesman Tim Hardeman.

“During the show the grass fire got to the point where they couldn’t control it with just the fire extinguishers that the pyrotechnic operator has to have on the scene. So that’s why we have them on the scene to deal with any issues that come up,” he said. Backup units were dispatched but got caught in traffic. “I can imagine getting in and out of there was compromised because of the traffic,” explained Hardeman. Fortunately they weren’t needed as the brush trucks and personnel on the scene controlled the fire. The show eventually went on without further incident.

“I wasn’t too much worried about it to tell you the truth. We saw lights as soon as the fires came on so we knew the fire trucks were over there and doing their job,”another witness, Sam Castro, said.

CBS 11’s Bud Gillett walked through the fireworks area Friday and found what appeared to me to be a piece of unexploded ordinance. He e-mailed a photo to the fire department, and Hardeman responded, “According to one of our arson bomb techs, it appeared to be a live component that was part of the fireworks show.” It’s unknown at this time precisely what was in the small pouch on the end, but the fire department will have the fireworks operator return to do a sweep of the area.

Hardeman said that the fire department took nearly 1000 calls from illegitimate fireworks incidents last night and put out about 100 grass fires. At one of them, firefighters even became targets. “A juvenile started firing some kind of pyrotechnic device at the fire truck and one of them went off close enough to the firefighter to cause some minor injuries,” he said.

The department will have additional brush trucks on patrol again Friday night, looking for more illegal fireworks and grass fires.

Update: July 11, 2013 10:01 AM

After returning from the July 4th holiday, a spokesman for the Trinity River Authority told CBS 11 News that the piece found Friday following the fireworks show posed no danger. Matt Oliver conferred with the company that staged the pyrotechnics display and they concluded, “This is a weighted bag filled with steel pellets as a weight for the parachute shells. They went off in the finale song close to the end of the show. They were the red parachute lanterns that appear to hang in the sky. They must have a weight to keep them floating straight. They don’t weigh but a few ounces and they are completely harmless.”

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