FARMINGTON — Farmington's police and fire departments implemented additional patrols beginning last Friday and running through the Fourth of July to keep an eye out for fireworks violations.
This summer, in particular, presents an extraordinary set of fire risks, officials say.
"We want everyone to have a good Fourth, but we want everyone to be safe," said Robert Popa, Farmington Fire Marshal in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "It's actually even drier than last year or two years ago."
In addition to the high heat and low humidity, strong summer winds present a significant risk, Popa said.
"Once a fire starts in these conditions ... the relative humidity has been reaching into the single digits," he said. "Even green (leaves) will burn in these conditions."
Informational flyers and leaflets are available at all the city's fire stations, at city hall and are carried on all fire engines, Popa said.
The flyers outline the city's fireworks policy and detail what kinds of fireworks can and cannot be used within city limits.
Any person found to be in violation of city policy can be fined up to $500, imprisoned for up to 90 days, or both, according to the flyer.
The situation is complicated because certain types of fireworks are legal to purchase in San Juan County, but illegal to posses or use within Farmington city limits. These fireworks include aerial spinners, helicopters, mines, missile-type rockets, roman candles, shells stick-type rockets, chasers and firecrackers. For one city councilwoman, fireworks use in the community has changed for the worse over the years.
"They were really something nice to be festive," said Councilwoman Mary Fischer at a council meeting earlier this month.
Today paints a very different picture with houses being shaken by the force of the explosions and pets cowering in fear, she said.
"My constituents are very negatively impacted by fireworks," Fischer said.
One local fireworks vendor agrees with Fischer, but says that a balance between safety and fun can easily be struck.
"I've been selling fireworks for more than 35 years," said Jim Burnham at the council meeting. "Fireworks are safer than ever. The citizens of Farmington love fireworks. My sense is that things are getting better. The people that stay up all night partying -- I hate that. I think that education and enforcement are the only ways (for safer fireworks)."