Fire official says conditions are among worse he has seen

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FARMINGTON — With the Fourth of July around the corner, local officials remain concerned about the possible impact of fireworks and dry vegetation.

All local government agencies have issued fireworks restrictions, including prohibiting every type of fireworks that state statute allows to be banned.

The city of Farmington has passed a resolution urging people to refrain from using fireworks, and San Juan County is encouraging people to light them only in the paved parking lot at McGee Park.

Farmington Fire Chief David Burke said there will be food trucks at McGee Park for people celebrating the holiday with fireworks.

The parking lot will be open until midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It will be open until 10:30 p.m. Monday, Thrusday and Sunday.

Northwest New Mexico is facing some of the worst drought and fire conditions that San Juan County Fire Department Division Chief David Vega has seen.

“We’re probably in one of the worst situations of drought and field moisture wise I’ve seen in my 22 years of doing this,” Vega said.

He said the dry conditions mean a single spark could create a large fire. He highlighted the 416 Fire north of Durango, Colorado, as an example and said the fuels are just as flammable here in New Mexico.

“It's only going to take one spark to have something disastrous down here in terms of fire," he said.

Fireworks sales began June 20, and there are various stands selling fireworks that are still allowed. Those include sparklers, crackling devices, cone fountains, cylindrical fountains and stationary or small-radius wheels.

Joshua Bounds, who sells fireworks out of a tent near EZ Shade on N.M. Highway 516 in Flora Vista, said many fireworks remain legal.

The fireworks stands tailored their orders this year to comply with the local fireworks restrictions, but Bounds said the types of fireworks sold inside municipalities this year are not different. He said the county has previously allowed sales of bottle rockets, spinners and missiles.

Those are not legal this year and even possession of those items could lead to a $500 fine, according to Burke.

Bounds said he has heard that some people are confused about the fireworks restrictions.

“I don’t think the drought is affecting us as much as the grapevine,” he said about sales of fireworks this year.

Bounds, who lives in Aztec, said his neighbors believe they cannot use fireworks at all.

“There are plenty of fireworks that are legal for them to light off,” he said.

He emphasized that people should follow county and municipal guidelines if they choose to light fireworks. Bounds said people should light them in paved areas or areas devoid of vegetation. He said users also should have easy access to water.

“We want everyone to celebrate responsibly,” Bounds said.

The Navajo Nation entered Stage 2 fire restrictions on June 11 due to high fire danger caused by inadequate precipitation, high wind conditions, high temperatures and low humidity.

Tribal law prohibits the possession, manufacturing, sale or use of fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices on the reservation.

An exception is for public displays of fireworks that receive approval or permit by the Navajo Nation Fire Department.

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