FARMINGTON — With two wildfires raging in northern New Mexico and no end in sight to the drought, Farmington City Council is considering stringent fireworks restrictions that may put a damper on Fourth of July celebrations this year.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, Mayor Tommy Roberts is expected to issue a proclamation declaring extreme or severe drought conditions in the area. The proclamation also limits fireworks use to paved or barren areas with a readily accessible source of water, bans all fireworks use in plant-covered areas and prohibits the use and sale of display fireworks, with the exception of the city-sponsored Fourth of July fireworks show.
The proclamation, which will be in effect until July 11, authorizes police and fire department personnel to issue citations -- not warnings -- to offenders.
At Tuesday's meeting, city council will also vote on a resolution asking residents to voluntarily abstain from fireworks use.
Farmington is not the only city preparing to take a stand on fireworks.
"Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield actually have almost the same ordinance," said John Mohler, assistant fire chief with the Bloomfield Fire Department.
Bloomfield has posted signs reminding residents of the tinder-dry conditions this year, he said.
A few years ago, the city banned all burning on public property such as streets, sidewalks and parking lots, Mohler said. The city may consider similar action this year.
Although residents can still use fireworks on their private property, safety is paramount, Mohler said, and fireworks sold outside of city limits may not fall under the appropriate use standards set by the city.
"People just really need to think about their safety and their neighbors' safety," Mohler said.
San Juan County Fire Department officials could not be reached for comment on Friday. Aztec Fire Department officials and Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge did not return phone calls on Friday.
Some people, however, say that fireworks may not pose a significant risk.
"There's an old saying that you don't throw gasoline on a fire," said Jim Burnham, owner of the Kirtland-based fireworks retailer Burnham Brothers Year Round.
Statistics from the state Forestry Department show that of the 460 fires in New Mexico last year, only two were caused by fireworks. The two fires totaled only 0.75 acres, and neither blaze was in San Juan County.
"I think it's OK to give people some good news," Burnham said. "We've shown it's possible to have responsible fun. Last year was a really good year for safe fireworks use. I wish the city would have a resolution thanking (the people) for safely using fireworks."A recent bill sponsored by State Representative Emily Kane, D-Bernalillo, and a captain in the Albuquerque Fire Department, would have effectively eliminated fireworks statewide, Burnham said.
The bill, which did not make it through the legislative process, would have made it easier for local governments to control fireworks use on their land.
"If we want to have the debate of whether to ban fireworks statewide, we would love to have that debate, but this was a ban under the guise of restrictions," Burnham said.
Responsible fireworks use is the key, he said.
"We all want the same thing," Burnham said. "Safety and fireworks can coexist."