Belen

The firing of bottle rockets, roman candles and firecrackers will not be allowed in Belen during July 4th celebrations.

The Belen City Council on Monday passed a new city ordinance permanently banning aerial fireworks and firecrackers.

“We have a responsibility to our residents to help protect their property and homes,” said Councilor Jeff Trembly. “We’ve done too much here to improve our city; we don’t want some clowns to ruin it with fireworks, starting a fire.”

The ordinance amends the current fireworks ordinance by listing prohibited fireworks and setting the penalty for discharging fireworks within the city limits.

“Every year, we are faced with the situation of deciding if we are in drought conditions or not and if we need to restrict fireworks,” said Julie Baca, planning and zoning director.

“The state statutes allow a municipality to prohibit the use of all ground audible and aerial devices by ordinance at anytime, whether or not drought conditions exist,” she said. “If the governing body has adopted an ordinance regulating fireworks throughout the year, that ordinance will continue to be enforceable whether or not a subsequent proclamation is adopted for drought conditions.”

Officials at the fire department agreed with the stance. “From a fire fighters perspective, because of the drought, we would like you to prohibit aerial devices and ground audible devices,” said Skip Mills, acting fire chief while Fire Chief Wayne Gallegos is on medical leave. “The aerials are dangerous because the user does not know where they are going to land and if they are going to be out when they land.”

Prohibited fireworks include aerial spinners, helicopters, mines, missile-type rockets, roman candles, shells, stick-type rockets, chasers and firecrackers.

“Aren’t the permissible fireworks also dangerous?” Councilor Rudy Jaramillo asked regarding the ground and hand-held sparkling and smoke devices listed as legal fireworks.

Those items include cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illuminating torches and toy smoke devices.

“The ground fireworks are usually set off in the street or people’s yards, where water is available. The aerials can fly onto property where no one is, so, if they catch the vegetation on fire, there would be no one there to put it out right away,” City Attorney Raul Sedillo said.

Jaramillo wanted to be sure that, if the ordinance was in place, the police officers would enforce it.

“I want to know what fines and punishment will be imposed against people who break the ordinance,” Jaramillo said.

Anyone violating the ordinance may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $300 or be imprisoned for up to 90 days.

Prior to approving the ordinance, Jaramillo also wanted to ensure that the public would be notified of the changes in the ordinance.

Miles said he will write about the ordinance in his next News-Bulletin guest column.

“There is a place on our water bills where we can place a message to our residents,” said Garley. “We will inform the public about the new ordinance in their water bills.”

Public displays, such as that at Belen High School’s graduation, may be approved by the fire chief. The city also puts on its own fireworks display on Independence Day.

Mayor Ronnie Torres said he hopes the county would pass a similar ordinance so vendors outside of the city limits would not be selling fireworks that are illegal in the city.

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Jane Moorman