Local leaders restrict use of fireworks

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Governing bodies across Valencia County are tightening up fireworks restrictions in the face of exceptional drought conditions.

In the past week, the town of Peralta, city of Belen and Valencia County have passed proclamations and emergency ordinances banning the use and sale of certain types of fireworks.

The city of Belen tried to take caution to the extreme and ban all fireworks within city limits.

However the emergency proclamation issued June 13, was rescinded June 19 to comply with state statute and allow certain fireworks sales.

At an emergency meeting last Thursday, Belen resident Ramona Silva told Belen city councilors she was concerned fireworks could spark a fire in the empty property next to her home on Vivian Road.

"If something happens everything is going to go up," Silva said.

Under the initial ban, fireworks vendors could sell only novelty fireworks, such as poppers, sparklers and smoke bombs, but nothing else, said Belen Fire Chief Manny Garcia.

While the complete ban of fireworks has been rescinded, there are still some fireworks that are not allowed for sale or use in the city limits.

Garcia advises residents that any illegal items will be confiscated and violators cited through municipal court.

After the initial ban was issued, staff was directed to pull back the vendor permits already issued in the city and reimburse fees.

But since a complete ban isn't allowed under state statute, vendors will be able to sell the permissible fireworks.

Calls to Steve Tomita, the city's public information officer, asking if the vendor permits had been pulled and reinstated were not returned before deadline.

The city will put on a public fireworks display on Saturday, July 6, at Eagle Park.

During a special meeting last Wednesday, Valencia County Fire Chief Steven Gonzales said even though the county banned open burning in the unincorporated parts of the county, that emergency ordinance did not include fireworks.

"With an extreme drought, we are following the lead of the state and surrounding municipalities," Gonzales said. "We are wanting to fall in with Albuquerque Fire Department and the recommendation of the governor."

On June 11, Gov. Susana Martinez sent out a letter to all local leaders, urging them to hold emergency meetings to discuss and enact "strict, local fireworks restrictions."

The letter went on to say Martinez would continue to push for legislation that would allow municipalities, counties and the state to tailor temporary and localized bans on the sale and use of fireworks during extreme fire danger conditions, while still allowing for professional firework displays.

The new city of Rio Communities still falls under the county's jurisdiction, so the list of banned and allowed fireworks for the unincorporated areas applies within the city, said Mayor Mark Gwinn.

"It's so dry out here, I know our fire chief is hoping there aren't any fireworks around here," Gwinn said. "I wish they were all were banned, but I can't do that. Right now we're under the county's name, but next year is a whole different story."

The villages of Bosque Farms and Los Lunas have standing ordinances that address which fireworks are banned and which are allowed within city limits.


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