Lawmakers mull over local fireworks ban

Posted at: 02/15/2013 6:14 PM
Updated at: 02/15/2013 6:35 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

This time of year most of us aren't thinking about fireworks and forest fires, but state lawmakers certainly are.

One of the big debates of the legislative session is over the power of local governments to ban fireworks when the fire danger is high. Fire chiefs and firefighters all over the state support the idea, although the fireworks industry succeeded in killing the legislation off last time around.

This time it's back in the form of a bill sponsored by Rep. Emily Kane, an Albuquerque Democrat, who is also a firefighter with the Albuquerque Fire Department.

"We allow municipalities and counties, the fire departments specifically, to control every other source of ignition during extreme conditions - except fireworks," Kane said. "This is important so we are not tying the firefighters' hands."

Kane's proposal would allow New Mexico cities, towns and counties to impose local bans on the sale and use of aerial fireworks, and restrict the use of other fireworks during times of high fire danger. The legislation initially included giving the State Forestry Division the power to impose a statewide fireworks ban, but that portion has been dropped from the bill. It's strictly a local matter.

"We'll be able to have a situation where they can ban fireworks in Truth or Consequences, or ban them in Socorro," said Rep. Brian Egolf, of Santa Fe, chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which scheduled to hear the bill Monday. "Maybe in Las Cruces, if it's wetter down there and it's not as serious you'll still be able to have the 4th of July."

The federal government says fireworks started an estimated 15,500 fires nationwide in 2010.

Gov. Susana Martinez strongly supports bill - as do all those firefighters and fire chiefs from Raton to Roswell, and Silver City to Santa Fe.