With wildfires raging across New Mexico, local officials are trying to get ahead of the curve before bottle rockets and other such fireworks spark additional flames.
State statute doesn’t allow a flat-out statewide ban on fireworks, but jurisdictions have some latitude to ban certain types of them. Because of the wildfires, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order on April 25 urging local and county governments to consider fireworks bans under the Fireworks Licensing and Safety Act.
In recent years, Sandoval County and area municipal governments have enacted fireworks bans due to drought conditions, but the early fire season and ongoing wildfires have added urgency this year.
Here’s the rundown of measures officials are taking:
City of Rio Rancho
Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue Department implemented a citywide burn ban Wednesday, prohibiting open flame, such as outdoor weed burning.
“This decision was based on the extreme fire risk present in Sandoval County due to the persistent high winds, low relative humidity and lack of measurable precipitation in future weather forecasts,” RRFR Battalion Chief Ryan Floersheim said in an email. “Open burning will still be permitted for recreational and ceremonial purposes, assuming the fires are in spark-arrested fire pits and continually monitored.”
The city already bans fireworks that go higher than 10 feet, travel outside a 6-foot radius and are louder than a cap gun. Those who violate the city’s ordinance face a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
Town of Bernalillo
Bernalillo Fire Chief Mike Carroll introduced a revised fireworks ordinance on Monday, calling for firework sales and usage regulations, plus a total ban under certain circumstances.
The original version of the ordinance, which was passed in 1982, restricted the types of fireworks allowed within town limits but didn’t have any provision for a complete ban.
In the updated version, the town got an ordinance template through the New Mexico Municipal League that’d allow additional types of fireworks, but also has a provision allowing the governing body to ban fireworks completely under extreme or severe drought conditions. This updated ordinance also stipulates around which holidays fireworks can be used.
“I know there have been some municipalities that have attempted restrictions like this in the past, and they were unsuccessful,” Carroll said.
The ordinance also requires there be adult supervision, a nearby water source and ground clear of vegetation and combustible items for fireworks use.
“We want to keep people safe, not get anybody hurt or have any property damaged or destroyed,” Carroll said.
The ordinance specifies fireworks can be set off during weekdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the exception of July 4. On weekends, fireworks can be set off from 9 a.m. to midnight.
Those who violate the ordinance will be issued a citation, facing fines of up to $300 or 90 days in jail.
Village of Corrales
The Village of Corrales on Tuesday banned sales and use of stick-type rockets with tubes less than five-eighths of an inch, fireworks that produce audible effects other than a whistle and use a charge of more than 130 milligrams of explosive composition.
All fireworks are prohibited within wildlands in the village, unless they’re on concrete or in a barren area on private property with a readily accessible water source or fire extinguisher.
Under village code, violators could face up to $500 in fines and/or 90 days in jail.
“Fireworks affect animals. They affect horses, dogs. They affect people who have PTSD from military service,” Corrales Fire Department Commander Tanya Lattin said. “We want to protect all of the village. We have everything from desert landscaping with sagebrush to farms with hay and vegetables. We have apple orchards. We have grape fields… Then of course, we have the bosque. Protecting this village during this severe drought is paramount.”
County Fire and Rescue Chief Eric Masterson said his department is in talks to present a 30-day fireworks ban to the county commission at the May 25 or June 8 meeting. This would apply to the unincorporated sections of the county.
The commission would have the option to extend the ban every 30 days.
Masterson said state law doesn’t allow the county to ban things like sparklers on a roadway that’s clear of brush, but it can prohibit aerial devices and bottle rockets. He plans to assess factors like homes within forested areas, whether someone has easy access to a water source and if there’s a dirt lot with plenty of distance from a home.
“We definitely don’t want stuff shooting up in the air a great distance, creating embers that would create a problem for us,” Masterson said. “A lot of times, those embers or those sparks can kind of just sit there and fester in a tumbleweed, for example. And you don’t even realize there’s a problem until the wind picks up at 2 a.m. and starts a fire.”
City of Albuquerque
Farther south, the City of Albuquerque has an ordinance banning the sale and use of all aerial fireworks, including aerial spinners, mines and stick-type rockets, along with ground-audible devices like bottle rockets and firecrackers, within the city limits.
Those caught using such devices in Albuquerque will be issued a cease and desist order by mail and face a mandatory court appearance, a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
Crackling devices, ground spinners, flitter sparklers and similar fireworks bought within city limits are permitted.