Despite a county-wide ban on the use of aerial fireworks, the skies over Valencia County featured many illegal fireworks the night of July Fourth.
“We just got bombarded by illegal fireworks last night,” said Los Lunas Fire Chief Lito Chavez.
A bush caught on fire on Main Street near Bank of Albuquerque and Arby’s, Chavez said. Chavez saw a male trying to put the fire out and found out later that the man was using fireworks.
However, the fire was extinguished without causing any damage, and there were no serious fires in Los Lunas, Chavez said.
Lieutenant Bill Phillips of the Los Lunas Police Department reported that they received 14 calls Thursday night from people complaining about fireworks.
“With the situation in Los Lunas, we lost control,” said John Cherry, Valencia County Fire Marshal. “Myself and my deputy were out all week, but it just went bonkers last night (July 4),” Cherry said.
In the unincorporated areas of the county, the enforcement task fell to five sheriff’s deputies. County dispatchers received more than 100 complaints about fireworks.
Deputies Ed Wright and Manny Torres together issued at least 30 verbal warnings to people using illegal fireworks in the areas of Meadow Lake, El Cerro Mission and Peralta.
“We were trying to stop them, as we were driving the area,” Wright said. “I did not issue any citations. It was all verbal warnings.”
Fire Marshal Cherry and Deputy Charles Eaton issued two citations, one in El Cerro Mission and another on Nancy Street, north of Los Lunas where some bottle rockets were confiscated by Eaton.
Those charged will have to go before a magistrate judge and face a misdemeanor fine of $300 and/or 90 days in jail.
“We need to change the fireworks laws,” Cherry said. “We need to go with the state statue that says nothing over 10 feet or out of a six-foot circle.”
Enforcing the ban on the aerial fireworks was the responsibility of municipal police departments. Belen Police Chief Paul Skotchdopole said, “We got quite a few calls. There were a few aerials, but not as many as Los Lunas.”
Skotchdopole said most of the calls involved people using legal fireworks, not the banned aerial fireworks. Fire Chief Wayne Gallegos said Belen had it’s own share of illegal fireworks but not as many as in Los Lunas.
“Versus the rest of the county — we did well,” Gallegos said. “Nobody got burned, nobody lost a finger and we had zero fires. We still had some illegal activity, but that was patrolled by the city police.
“I thought we were going to get tougher than that,” said Gallegos, who tried to track down some illegal fireworks activity Thursday night. “I went up to the mesa, but, by the time I got there, they were gone.
“Then, all of a sudden, I heard boom, boom, boom behind me. That scared me. I thought somebody was shooting me,” Gallegos said.
While Belen had some illegal aerial fireworks on the west mesa area and others visible from downtown on Main Street, the Village of Bosque Farms was quiet. No fireworks citations were issued in Bosque Farms, according to Linda Curtner, police/court clerk.
The Village of Bosque Farms was the only municipality in the county to ban the use of all fireworks.