Fireworks spark concern

Clovis residents Kathy Martinez and daughter Brittaney Bruhn buy fireworks on Saturday at the Phantom Fireworks booth outside Lowe’s supermarket on 14th Street. The booth is manned by Jeff Cahall and his son Sierra. (Staff photo: Ryn Gargulinski)

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

The array at the Phantom Fireworks booth includes monikers such as Galactic Stardust, Cobra Hiss, Dragon’s Wrath, Junior Cuckoo, Tiger Fury and Lady Liberty.

Vendor Jeff Cahall said probably the coolest item he sells is the Oriental Lamp.

“It’s made out of paper, like those lanterns you see in Chinese restaurants,” said Cahall, who mans the fireworks booth outside of Lowe’s supermarket on 14th Street with help from his son Sierra. “Once you light it, it spins around and sparks. When it’s done, you’re still left with the lantern.”

Four other locations sell similar-type items within Clovis city limits.

“They are all fountain fireworks,” Cahall said. “They stay on the ground. You won’t find any firecrackers, rockets or aerial displays.”

According to city and county ordinances, all aerial devices _ such as bottle rockets — are prohibited in the city but certain aerial devices larger than 1/2 inch in diameter are allowed in the county.

Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher and Capt. Michael Inge, city fire marshal, said the ordinances will be strictly enforced, in part because of this year’s especially dry terrain.

“The fact is we still have a lot of wheat fields that have not been cut yet,” Hatcher said. “We’re just asking for trouble. We’re so dry right now we’ll just burn up.”

There are also restrictions as to whom and when fireworks can be sold — only individuals over age 12 and only immediately surrounding holidays like the Independence Day, New Year’s or an election, Inge said.

The ultimate penalty for not following orders could be pretty dire, Hatcher said.

“We warn them first,” the county sheriff said. “But we can actually pull their fireworks license, seize their inventory and write them a citation.”

The penalty for breaking the rules in the city is a fine of up to $300 or up to 90 days in jail, or both. The county punishment is a fine up to $1,000 or up to a year in jail, or both.

“It’s charged as a petty misdemeanor,” Hatcher said, “but the civil ramifications (from destroying someone’s property) could be astronomical.”

Hatcher encouraged people to take part in the community celebration held ever year, rather than shoot off fireworks of their own, which could lead to injury or disaster.

“Every year they hold Smoke on the Water,” Hatcher said. “They spend thousands of dollars setting off fireworks and providing good quality entertainment for the community. It’s safe and efficient and you’re not at risk.”

The city of Clovis has an ordinance that prohibits the use or possession of certain kinds of fireworks within city limits.

Prohibited fireworks:
• Ground devices: Firecrackers and chasers
• Aerial devices: Skyrockets, bottle rockets, missile-type rockets, stick-type rockets, helicopter, aerial spinner, roman candles, and mine shells

Permissible fireworks:
• Sparklers, fountains, ground spinners, wheels, illuminating torches, crackling devices, party poppers and toy smoke devices
• Violation of the city ordinance is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of not more than $300 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both. Violation of the county ordinance is punishable up to $1,000 and one year in jail, or both.

Source: Clovis Police Department, Sheriff’s Department

Fireworks are NEVER allowed on public lands in New Mexico. These include New Mexico state parks and monuments, national forests, parks and monuments, municipal parks and open space. Check with your local fire departments for details specific to your community regarding other restrictions. Also check www.nmforestry.com periodically to see if the State Forestry Division has issued any fireworks, open fire or smoking restrictions.

Safety tips:
• Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
• Read and follow all label warnings and instructions.
• Be sure family members or other spectators are out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and vegetation, and flammable materials.
• Never try to relight fireworks that have not gone off.
• Keep a bucket of water or hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
• Dose spent fireworks with water prior to disposal.

Source: New Mexico State Forestry Division