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Fort Worth Fourth organizers trying to avoid grass fires this year

June 28,2023

See full CBS news article by Jason Allen here.

With the sun straight overhead Wednesday and temperatures over 100 degrees, a small barge on the Trinity River—north of downtown Fort Worth—motored slowly along the shoreline, sucking up water and spraying it in an arc onto the levees around Panther Island.

On top of the levee, a line of pipe and sprinklers stretched for several hundred feet. On the dirt paths of the Trinity Trail system, tracks from water trucks show where they have been traversing the shoreline, sometimes more than once a day.

The result is green grass growing on the banks, even as the city sits under a June heat dome with early summer thunderstorms long gone.

The goal is to keep any grass and weeds green through Tuesday, when fireworks will once again explode from the river banks for the Fort Worth Fourth. This comes a year after an unexpected mid-show emergency cancellation when grass fires in severe drought conditions crept too close to the unfired shells.

"It's been weeks now, basically a month, that they've been watering that area where the show's going to take place this year," said Matt Oliver, with the Tarrant Regional Water District.

After organizers and the Fort Worth Fire Department faced questions following the incident last year, they considered moving the annual show to a new location, or grading the grass down to the dirt on the levees.

Eventually, they decided to stick with the traditional location but use more river water to soak the shoreline. It was something the TRWD has done in previous years, but this year's crews started earlier and are spraying more often.

There are also plans to create a bed of sand beneath the firing location for the fireworks, to snuff out sparks and create a fire break for any spot fires that might still ignite.

Drought conditions county-wide are also improved over last year, with the U.S. Drought Monitor reporting only moderate drought conditions in Tarrant County, compared to 92% severe drought during the same week in 2022.

Heat may be more of a concern this time. Oliver said the event will once again feature free water bottle filling stations and allow floating in the river until 8:00 p.m., with the fireworks scheduled to begin by 9:30 p.m.

Location Mentioned: Panther Island Pavilion