San Juan County Commission adopts ban on some fireworks
Chief John Mohler says county is driest it has been since 2000
FARMINGTON — For the second year in a row, abnormally dry conditions have led the San Juan County Commission to adopt a measure outlawing the sale and use of certain types of fireworks.
The measure was passed unanimously by the commission after a brief public hearing during its May 4 meeting in Aztec.
Chief John Mohler of San Juan County Fire & Rescue delivered a short presentation outlining the conditions that led county officials to push for the move, and when no members of the public showed up to speak in support of or in opposition to the measure, the council voted 5-0 to approve it.
The ban applies only to a small group of fireworks, including aerial spinners, bottle rockets, helicopters and missiles. It applies only to unincorporated parts of the county and goes into effect for 30 days on June 20, which is the day when fireworks are allowed by law to be sold in San Juan County.
In an email to The Daily Times, county spokesman Devin Neeley noted that the restrictions passed by the commission are the strictest fireworks prohibitions allowed by state law. He said local governments are not allowed to totally ban fireworks and that such a move would require a change to state law.
The conditions that led the commission to adopt the ban were well documented, with Mohler citing several concerning statistics. Among them were figures from the U.S. Drought Monitor that show that nearly 96% of San Juan County was classified as being in severe drought or worse as of April 26, with more than 68% of the county in extreme drought.
Mohler put the situation in an even more dire perspective.
"We are literally the driest we've been since 2000," he said.
In response to a question from Commissioner GloJean Todacheene, Mohler said his department gets called to fires in the county on a near-daily basis and already has fought two significant blazes this spring — a fire of close to 100 acres near Nenahnezad and one of nearly 50 acres in Bloomfield.
"We've had some big ones already, and we're just trying to slow that down," Mohler said.
County Manager Mike Stark noted the ban on the certain types of fireworks could be modified or rescinded if conditions change, but he said it is important for the county to do its part as other parts of the state experience huge wildfires.
"It's devastating what's happening in the northern part of our state," he said, referring to the Hermit Peak and Calf Canyon fires burning near Las Vegas and Mora, New Mexico, that have torched nearly 150,000 acres.
Stark said the county once again will make the McGee Park parking lot available as a safe alternative site for users of fireworks that remain legal in San Juan County over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.