Lea County enacts temporary restrictions on fireworks

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LEA COUNTY, N.M – Wildfires in Las Vegas and Ruidoso have gained much of the attention this year, but it is counties and communities across the state that are experiencing drought and hazardous fire conditions.

Since January, Lea County fire officials have responded to more than 170 grass fires.

“We’ve been from U.S. 380 between Tatum and Roswell, west; we’ve been east towards the state line. We’ve been between the Eunice and Jal area. Hobbs, Buckeye, which is west of Hobbs. Monument, Carlsbad Highway between Hobbs and Carlsbad,” said Lorenzo Velasquez, Lea County Emergency Management director.

Those grass fires have been fanned by the same high winds, low humidity and extreme drought that most of the state is now facing.

And that is why on May 12, the Lea County Board of Commissioners approved a 30-day resolution that restricts certain activities that heighten the risk of fires. Those rules mirror those put in place by the Bureau of Land Management at the federal level and the New Mexico Forestry Division at the state level.

The restrictions include, among other things, a ban on the use of fireworks on land where they there are high grasses; ample vegetation or large amounts of timber.

Also banned is smoking, except in enclosed buildings or vehicles equipped with ashtrays. Additionally, there are bans on most campfires; use of equipment that may generate sparks, and open burning.

Those who violate the rules, could receive a citation.

Velasquez says these restrictions are commonsense measures meant to curb fires.

“We are not restricting the public from having fun. We just need to be careful,” he said

The resolution effects only those unincorporated areas within Lea County, however Velasquez said the cities of Hobbs and Lovington have already enacted similar resolutions.

The county’s resolution will expire within 30 days. Whether it will be extended beyond that will depend on the commissioners and Mother Nature.

“This declaration is only good for 30-days. We will review it. We will see what the conditions are, and then I will present it to commission for their decision,” Velasquez said.

However, he says the public understands that the measures in the resolution are necessary and are being cooperative.

“They see us. They see what we are doing, they see the smoke, they understand,” Velasquez said.