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San Juan County, N.M., limits sale of some fireworks

Commissioners cite extended and exceptional drought
Fireworks on July Fourth light up the sky over Parque de Vida in Cortez in 2019. Sales of fireworks will be limited because of the extended drought in San Juan County, New Mexico. (The Journal file)

FARMINGTON – With the approach of summer and the Fourth of July, the San Juan County Commission has restricted the sale of some fireworks, in part because of the extended and exceptional drought.

San Juan County Fire and Rescue requested the commission consider the restrictions, and commissioners on May 25 adopted a proclamation to limit the sale of certain types of fireworks, according to a news release from county spokesperson Devin Neeley.

Restricted fireworks include rockets, helicopters and aerial spinners. The proclamation also limits the use of fireworks to areas with barren or paved ground and requires fireworks users to have a nearby water source.

“The use of any fireworks in areas covered partially, or wholly, by native grass, brush or trees is totally banned,” the news release said.

While counties cannot ban all fireworks, the restrictions are “as extreme as allowed by the state.”

“The whole county is dry, and we don’t want even one spark to fall and be the cause of a wildfire,” said San Juan County Fire Chief John Mohler. “This minimal restriction is hopefully enough to mitigate the fire danger for the Fourth of July season this year. Thank you to the San Juan County Commission for adopting these restrictions. We urge residents to be doubly cautious this year.”

Central and eastern San Juan County, New Mexico, remain in exceptional drought, or D4, the most extreme of five levels of drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor map.

Most of San Juan County is in an “exceptional drought,” and has been in some level of drought since January 2019, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. San Juan County already ceased issuing burn permits to selected areas as of May 14.

North of the state line, southern Montezuma and La Plata counties also are in exceptional drought.

“Burn permits will not be issued until there is a drastic decrease in fire danger,” the county news release stated.

In an attempt to alleviate the disappointment in firework restrictions, San Juan County will make the north parking lot at McGee Park available starting June 20 for residents to light fireworks on a paved surface. Residents are asked to pick up after themselves.