July 4 was marked with an uptick in COVID-19 cases as well as firework sales and accompanying disturbance complaints this year in West Wharton County. Reports of increased Independence Day fireworks came mostly from residents in large cities statewide, but El Campo was not immune to the trend.

The El Campo Police Department received 31 complaints about fireworks on July 4, compared to 15 reports in 2019.

“I suspect the increase was mostly due to the pandemic,” El Campo Police Chief Terry Stanphill said. “More people than usual stayed at home. I know I heard a lot more (fireworks) than normal.”

Fireworks cannot be used or possessed within El Campo city limits, and the city has not hosted a public fireworks display during the last few years. 

The nearest public fireworks show was held in Boling by the local fire department on July 4.

ECPD saw an increase in the total number of July 4 service calls this year, 83, compared to 68 calls in 2019.

“The officers were running from one call to another,” Stanphill said.

Some of the busiest holidays for ECPD have been around New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving, according to Stanphill, although those holidays have also been uneventful during some years.

“I’m sure day of week has a lot to do with it and the weather,” Stanphill said. “Most holidays are quiet. This July 4 was not horrible as most calls were firework related.”

Independence Day fell on a Thursday in 2019 while the holiday was on a Saturday this year.

With many cities opting to cancel their public firework celebrations, consumer firework sales doubled across the nation before July 4, according to CNN. The owner of Mr. B Fireworks, a Schulenberg company that operates a seasonal stand in El Campo, also reported increased pre-July 4 sales this year.

New York, Boston, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Pasadena, Calif. were among U.S. cities that saw huge spikes in firework sales and complaints this year. Increased firework sales were reported in the Houston and Dallas areas, although there have been few reports on whether firework complaints also rose in these regions.

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