Communities banded together for public safety Thursday night when the Los Lunas and Bosque Farms village councils joined the county and the City of Belen to approve the restriction of certain fireworks in the area.
Both municipalities extended a new 30-day drought proclamation to expire in mid-July. The Bosque Farms Village Council unanimously voted in favor of the proclamation at their regular meeting Thursday night.
The Los Lunas Village Council also passed a drought ordinance restricting which fireworks may be sold or used in the village.
Fire Chief Lito Chavez told the Los Lunas Village Council he wanted to see the proclamation continue because the drought conditions have gotten worse. Based on information from the National Weather Service, the drought conditions have increased from severe to extreme in Valencia County.
With a 3 to 1 vote, the Los Lunas Village Council passed the ordinance to restrict certain fireworks, including firecrackers. Councilor Robert Vialpando restated his position to not ban firecrackers.
“We’re still going to have them. People will still get them. They’re not dangerous to start fires. I don’t mind them,” Vialpando said.
“We might as well ban them all. What’s next? Are we going to regulate everything people do? Maybe we shouldn’t allow lighters in people’s hands. I just don’t think firecrackers are dangerous.”
While Los Lunas Councilor Gerard Saiz agreed with Vialpando that firecrackers are used by many families in Los Lunas, he didn’t support their use.
“It’s hard to admit, but, as a young boy, I started a fire with firecrackers in a cotton field,” Saiz said. “What if the bosque lights up and homes are set ablaze. We have to live with this when you guys (the fireworks vendors) are gone. We have to offer our support to our fire chief. I would feel awful if business (owners) and residents lost their property.”
Valencia County Fire Marshal John Cherry asked the council to support the proclamation due to the extreme drought conditions.
“Aerial displays in the county have caused fires in the past. We’ve done checks and tests to prove that. Fires have started with beer bottles in the sun magnifying off them. Those are the conditions we’re seeing,” Cherry said.
“Belen, Bosque Farms and the county have done this. Now Los Lunas needs to approve safe use within the area. Lets go together on this.”
Valencia County Deputy Fire Chief Charles Eaton encouraged the municipalities to come together even though the municipalities and the county “don”t always see eye to eye” on certain issues.
“You have a say at the local level,” Eaton said. “Restrict fireworks and protect the public.”
Ed Massengill, who has spent 20 years in the valley selling fireworks, asked the council to consider leaving firecrackers as permissible use in the ordinance.
“Small businesses are hit hard. We need some revenue. Firecrackers create a lot of return and help local vendors make money,” he said.
Based on state law, permissible fireworks throughout the county include ground and hand-held sparklers and smoke devices. Cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illuminating torches, toy smoke devices and wheels are allowed.
Fireworks that are not permitted include certain aerial devices and ground audible devices. Missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners and stick-type rockets, chasers and firecrackers are not allowed.
According to Belen Fire Chief Wayne Gallegos, none of the municipalities can “ban” fireworks.
“There is a lot we can and can’t do. The state is on fire, and we’re selling fireworks,” Gallegos said. “By law, we can’t ban them. A lot of people get upset about that.
“It’s only a restriction. We want to point out that we’re trying to be fair to the people who sell fireworks,” he said. “We’re not fighting them. Restricting fireworks is the maximum we can do to protect our citizens.”
Permissible fireworks may be sold from June 20 to July 7 in temporary structures such as buildings and tents.