Officials urge caution with ringing in the New Year

Brownsville residents prepare to celebrate the new year with fireworks. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

Tom Hushen, Cameron County’s emergency management coordinator, said residents should ensure they comply with city ordinances before setting off any fireworks. Fireworks are not permitted in Brownsville city limits, and violations can carry fines of up to $2,000, according to the city charter.

Hushen also stressed the need for children to always have adult supervision when fireworks are in use. An estimated 12,900 people visited emergency rooms for firework-related injuries in 2017, according to the National Fire Protection Association, and about one-third of those were children younger than 15.

“Never, ever fire firearms during this time, as well,” he added. “A lot of people seem to do that thinking it sounds like a firework, but that’s something you should never do.”

Brownsville police will be on the lookout for illegal fireworks, firearm use and drunk drivers during New Year’s.

“It’s illegal to discharge firearm within city limits. We want everyone to enjoy a safe and happy new year, and we don’t want a celebration to turn into a tragedy,” police spokeswoman Melissa Gonzalez said. “ Fireworks and gunshots can easily (be) confused, so we’re definitely going to be out there looking for everything from shots fired to fireworks to drunk drivers.”

Gonzalez said residents should be mindful that Brownsville is a no-refusal city, so police officers will get a warrant for a blood draw for anyone who declines a breath test.

Cameron County Fire Marshall Juan Martinez said the county has not issued a burn warning since wet weather is expected for New Year’s Day, but official still “ ask people to use caution and common sense when using fireworks.”

While celebrations may include alcohol, advice from the National Council on Fireworks Safety suggests that it’s best to consume alcoholic beverages after a fireworks show is over. Other tips include:

>> Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in water.

>> Never give fireworks to children.

>> Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

>> Always keep a water source nearby.

>> Do not take pets to fireworks displays.