San Juan County Commission bans sale of certain types of fireworks

County officials emphasize ban does not include all fireworks

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
The San Juan County Commission moved May 25 to ban the sale of certain types of fireworks in unincorporated areas of the county.
  • San Juan County Fire & Rescue Chief John Mohler requested the ban.
  • He said dry conditions have led to recent extreme fire behavior.
  • Fireworks store owner Jay Burnham spoke in support of the ban.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County commissioners voted May 25 to ban the sale of some types of fireworks when fireworks go on sale in the county on June 20.

The commission approved the resolution unanimously after San Juan County Fire & Rescue Chief John Mohler and a local fireworks store owner spoke in support of the measure during the commission meeting. Mohler said prolonged dry conditions in the county led him to request the ban.

"Due to the fires we've had recently and the extreme drought … we have had extreme fire behavior," he said.

Mohler emphasized the ban applies to only a handful of fireworks styles, such as aerial spinners, bottle rockets, helicopters and missiles. It also applies only to unincorporated parts of San Juan County.

"By ordinance, we could restrict more," Mohler said. "We're not asking for that ordinance. That's a much bigger thing."

John Mohler

The chief also said officials from his department reached out to local fireworks stand owners before making the request to the commission in an effort to enlist their support for the measure.

"We did talk to the local vendors," he said. "It does sound like they are supportive of this ban."

That assessment was echoed by Jay Burnham, owner of the Burnham Fireworks store in Bloomfield. Burnham spoke in support of the ban, noting that his business appreciates being part of the community.

"We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," he said. "And they are recommending, I think, a reasonable ban, a temporary ban at this point."

Burnham displayed several examples of the kinds of fireworks that would be covered by the ban. The resolution does not apply to all types of fireworks, as state law only permits local governments to ban certain styles.

During the commission's discussion of the issue, Commissioner Michael Sullivan asked if the ban could be lifted this season if the county sees more moisture and conditions improve. He was assured by County Manager Mike Stark that it could be.

County officials cited the ongoing drought as the primary reason for the ban. More than 70% of San Juan County is classified as being in exceptional drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the most extreme category in the five-tier system, while the rest of the county is in extreme or severe drought.

In the middle of May, fire officials in Farmington and the county suspended the issuance of burn permits due to the dry conditions.

More:Farmington City, San Juan County will stop issuing burn permits as drought deepens

Such bans have become almost commonplace in San Juan County and its municipalities as annual precipitation totals have declined and fuels become drier. The county and/or many of its municipalities have moved several times in recent years to ban certain types of fireworks.

According to a press release, San Juan County Fire & Rescue has responded to 46 fires over the last five years that were caused by fireworks. Over the last decade, that number includes nearly 100 fires.

In an effort to make the use of fireworks as safe as possible, the county once again is making the parking lot at McGee Park just south of U.S. Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield available from June 20 through July 10. Use of the parking lot by fireworks enthusiasts is free, but visitors are asked to clean up their trash and cease lighting fireworks by 10 p.m. daily.

Fireworks can be sold in San Juan County through July 6.

The ban approved by the council also limits the use of fireworks to areas with barren or paved ground, and users are required to have a water sources readily available. The use of fireworks in areas covered even partially by native grass, brush and trees is prohibited.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.