County burn bans include fireworks

Sharna Johnson

With ongoing drought and high fire risk, only the professionals get to play with fireworks in Eastern New Mexico this year.

Burn bans are active in Curry and Roosevelt counties this year with officials going a step further to pass restrictions on the use and sale of fireworks out of fear of fire.

State law allows the sale of fireworks to begin June 20, but when the stands open, the selection will be a little less diverse in Curry County.

At a May 24 Curry County Commission meeting, out of concern for dry conditions and looking to prevent fires, Wildland Fire Coordinator David Kube and Sheriff Matt Murray argued together for a proclamation restricting fireworks, telling commissioners it needed to be clear and thorough so law enforcement could actively enforce it.

Kube said what was passed was a ban that limits the sale of fireworks as far as state statute will allow.

Violators can face a fine up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison.

“It’s just the common sense fact of it, as dry as it is… everybody’s yards are brown the trees are not good,” Kube said.

“There’s always going to be somebody out there that’s going to do something stupid, but for the most part, I think people are going to understand it’s dry; it’s dangerous.”

Statute allows ban of missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, stick-type rockets and ground audible devices as well as restriction of the use of other firework types to paved areas.

The ban must be renewed every 30 days and will be revisited Tuesday by commissioners, according to a meeting agenda.

Inside the city of Clovis, fireworks are always restricted.

Fire Marshall and Capt. Allan Silvers said no airborne devices are allowed and the only thing that is allowed are essentially ground and handheld sparkling devices.

“People just have to be very careful regardless of what they’re using. It’s just a very dry season,” Silvers said.

In Roosevelt County, there is an active burn ban and fireworks are illegal to use or sell in the county, said Battalion Chief Lance Hill with the Portales Fire Department.

Inside the city of Portales, Hill said they are legal with aerial devices excluded, but fire officials urge caution and safe use.

“The main thing is anybody that’s going to be setting off fireworks to please just be very, very careful and make sure that there’s a source to extinguish it,” he said.

Deputy Malin Parker with the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office said his agency will enforce all county bans and even if someone is using a legal firework, “you could easily be arrested” if it’s done in a way that shows “willful or wanton disregard for public safety.”

Even for a cigarette butt thrown from a car, normally a littering charge, “We would probably arrest somebody right now because conditions are so bad,” he said.

Across the border in west Texas, Parmer County too announced this week that all fireworks sales and use were banned because of dry conditions.

But Silvers said in Clovis the public Independence Day display will go on and firefighters will be on-hand for safety.

Likewise, Portales will hold its display as planned.

Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Director Karl Terry said event organizers have met with fire officials to discuss safety and strategy so the fireworks display can go on.

“We have a lot of resources available to us and we’ve met and planned out to jump on anything that happens,” Terry said.

He said organizers are still working to complete fundraising for the event, having reached halfway to their goal.

“Right now it’s really, really dry,” he said.

“Rather than doing a fireworks display at home and spending money to buy your kids fireworks, make a donation (to the public display). (The community will) have a good time and everybody will stay safe, especially our firefighters.”