Officials urge fireworks ban; vendor responds
Posted at: 06/22/2012 7:06 PM
| Updated at: 06/23/2012 8:24 AM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Dry conditions in the Albuquerque metro area prompted city and state officials to warn people about fire threats this Fourth of July.
"We're literally a spark away from disaster," Albuquerque Fire Chief James Breen said.
Friday afternoon, the city and Bernalillo County officials teamed up with Governor Susana Martinez to send a message - stay away from fireworks.
The city and county implemented restrictions on fireworks, but the state cannot.
Still, Martinez urged New Mexicans not to buy and use their own fireworks, but to instead attend a public display.
"The legislature needs to have the courage to impose this law," Martinez said.
Martinez repeatedly attempted to pass legislation that would allow the state to restrict the sale and use of fireworks as needed during times of extreme fire danger but it never passed.
"Not very many fires have been started by an aerial firework, but the problem is this, it only takes one," Martinez said.
The extremely dry conditions and low humidity currently pose the biggest fire threat, Breen said.
Firefighters are still battling the Whitewater/Baldy Fire, the biggest fire in the state's history, in the Gila Wilderness.
Crews are also fighting the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso, New Mexico's most destructive fire. Near Albuquerque, crews are still battling the Romero Fire in the Corrales bosque.
While none of these recent fires have been linked to fireworks, Martinez said, residents need to use common sense.
"No one is trying to discourage a Fourth of July celebration," she said. "We just want people to be safe."
However, one fireworks vendor told KOB Eyewitness News 4, they should not be getting the blame.
"The word fireworks and fires, they try and draw the two together, and that's a huge misconception," said Marcello Ruiz, owner of Gemini Fireworks.
Ruiz has sold fireworks for the past 43 years, but said he repeatedly finds himself having to justify his family's business.
"We always advocate the safe use of fireworks," Ruiz said. "That's our number one goal here is safety."
But some people feel fireworks are risky all around and should be left to the professionals.
"I think they're totally dangerous," a woman said. "Not just the fire danger, but for bodily harm."
Ruiz emphasized, they tell all customers who purchase fireworks to use them at home, on their own paved property, where there is water and a hose nearby.
Not a single recent fire has been linked to explosives, he said, and an all-out fireworks ban wouldn't lessen the fire threat.
"No, never," Ruiz said. "People still want to buy fireworks. We never, ever, ever want the people going to the mountains, the open lands, the bosque lighting fireworks. That is never allowed and it should never be because of the fire hazard."
A man we spoke with agrees - fireworks do not start fires.
"It's the people," Alex Diaz said. "I mean, if you're smart enough and know how to use them, then that is what they're meant for."
Gemini Fireworks only carries ground fireworks, that are legal in New Mexico.
Anyone who travels outside of this area and purchases their own aerial fireworks and then is caught using them within Bernalillo County, faces up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
Anyone caught using aerial fireworks within city limits, could face up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
Click here for a link to City of Albuquerque restrictions.
Click here for a link to Bernalillo County restrictions.