LAS CRUCES – The City of Las Cruces missed a crucial deadline which would have allowed it to enact fireworks restrictions in response to wildfires and drought in New Mexico.
While the Las Cruces City Council intended to act on a 30-day measure restricting the use of city-legal fireworks during its June 21 meeting, the item had to be pulled from the council agenda during the meeting.
The city council would have approved the measure too close to the Fourth of July holiday. By law, a proclamation restricting fireworks due to drought conditions must be issued “no less than 20 days prior to a holiday for which fireworks may be sold.”
The city’s measure would have restricted legal firework use within city limits only to paved or barren areas, or areas that have a readily accessible source of water. The measure would have barred firework use in areas wholly or partly covered by timber or vegetation and would have banned the sale and use of display fireworks.
City Fire Chief Jason Smith apologized to councilors during comments at the end of the Monday meeting, saying the item should have come before the council two weeks prior but that his timing was off.
“Our goal now is to clarify as much as possible what fireworks are permissible and allowable and what our safety message is to our citizens,” Smith told councilors, adding that city staff would work through social media to educate the public and vendors.
What fireworks are permissible?
Fireworks permissible within city limits include cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illuminating torches, toy smoking devices and wheels.
While the city missed its deadline, Doña Ana County enacted its own measure last week.
The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners approved a 30-day proclamation June 14 that restricts where permissible fireworks can be used within the county.
The proclamation restricts the use of county-legal fireworks in a similar manner in which the city had intended. Cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illuminating torches, toy smoking devices and wheels can be used only in “areas within the unincorporated areas of the county that are paved or barren, or areas that have a readily accessible source of water for use by the homeowner or general public.” The proclamation completely bars legal fireworks from being used in areas partly or wholly covered by timber or vegetation.
According to the county proclamation, display fireworks are allowed by permit only within county jurisdiction.
MorePlain White T’s to headline city’s Fourth of July concert, Raúl Malo opening
The county commission also voted to temporarily prohibit specialty retailers within the county from selling aerial fireworks and ground audibles, which are not allowed to be sold by any business other than a specialty retailer. Specialty retailers are typically only allowed to sell to non-Doña Ana County residents, and those fireworks can’t be used inside the county’s jurisdiction.
According to the US Drought Monitor, the county is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions.
In April, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order calling for cities and counties across New Mexico to enact fireworks bans in response to ongoing wildfires and drought conditions.
“Fire conditions across New Mexico remain extremely dangerous — it’s essential that we mitigate potential wildfires by removing as much risk as possible,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham in on April 25 news release. “While many of us like to celebrate with fireworks, no momentary display is worth causing a wildfire that could threaten the lives and property of your neighbors.”
Additionally, the New Mexico State Forester has prohibited firework use and restrictions placed on open burning, campfires and smoking on non-municipal, non-tribal and non-federal lands due to fire and drought conditions. The federal Bureau of Land Management has also placed fire restrictions on federal lands across the state, including parts of Doña Ana County.
Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, [email protected] or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.