County bans certain types of fireworks

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Valencia County Commissioners approved a proclamation Wednesday restricting the sale and use of fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the county.

The vote was taken after determining high fire dangers posed an emergency situation.

The commission scheduled an emergency meeting less than 24 hours after receiving an email from Gov. Susana Martinez urging communities to ban the use of fireworks due to high fire dangers throughout the state.

Martinez asked municipalities and counties to hold an emergency meeting for this action no later than Wednesday.

"This is a safety issue that we have to take very seriously," said Commission Chairman Donald Holliday.

The National Weather Service indicates the county is headed toward extreme drought conditions unless weather patterns bring moisture to the area, said Valencia County Fire Chief Charles Eaton.

"We are going to be in extreme weather conditions, which warrants immediate action," Eaton said.

Drought conditions, high winds and warm weather are contributing to the active fire season, Martinez said in the email.

Fire dangers are highlighted by the two large fires, sparked by lightning, firefighters continue to battle, including the largest wildfire in New Mexico state history, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire in the Gila Wilderness, and Little Bear Fire in the White Mountain Wilderness near Ruidoso.

"If we can prevent the start of even one of these human-caused fires, we will help save lives and property," Martinez said.

Timing for this resolution is key, since it must be implemented 20 days before the Fourth of July holiday, which was Thursday, said county attorney David Pato at the meeting.

"That's why timing is so critical," Pato said.

Fireworks spark a "substantial amount" of fires every year, Eaton said. Last year, the county extinguished 12 such confirmed cases.

The proclamation, effective immediately, will remain in effect for 30 days and could be reinstated for an additional 30 days if the commission sees fit.

The proclamation bans the sale or use of aerial and ground audible devices and display fireworks. Display fireworks are defined in the proclamation as devices aimed for commercial displays to create visible or audible effects through combustion, deflagration, or burning quickly before releasing sparks, or detonation.

These fireworks include firecrackers holding more than 130 milligrams of explosive material, aerial shells with more than 40 grams of chemical materials intended for lift charge and any other items exceeding the limits for allowable fireworks.

Violators could face a misdemeanor charge and fine of no more than $300 and/or up to 90 days in jail.

Fireworks allowed to be sold and used, on paved or barren areas with a "readily accessible source of water," are cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illuminating torches, toy smoke devices, wheels and mines fireworks.

Although there are no vendors with permits to sell fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the county, Eaton said there were eight locations in Los Lunas, four in Belen and three in Peralta.

However, residents are encouraged to attend professional firework displays, Eaton said.

Fourth of July firework displays are scheduled at dusk on Saturday, June 30, in Belen at the Heart of Belen, and Wednesday, July 4, in Los Lunas at Daniel Fernandez Memorial Park.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.