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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Fourth of July is just around the corner, and severe drought conditions have many worried about fireworks. Cities around New Mexico are still proceeding cautiously with firework shows, but many proactive restrictions have been put in place. 

Albuquerque currently has a ban on aerial fireworks (missile-type rockets, roman candles, shells, etc.) and ground audible devices (firecrackers and chasers aka bottle-rockets) within city limits. Anyone caught with these will receive a citation and will have their fireworks immediately confiscated. Possession of fireworks will also warrant a mandatory court appearance and a fine of $500. A jail sentence of up to 90 days is possible, depending on the severity of the misdemeanor.

Earlier this month, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham urged local officials around the state to ban fireworks and cancel firework shows as the state continues to grapple with severe drought. She cited fire danger as the primary motivation to either cancel or delay firework shows by local municipalities. However, the governor does not have the authority to issue a statewide ban on fireworks. 

Firework-related fires are a genuine concern for the state. According to the United States Drought Monitor, nearly 90 percent of the state is still in severe drought. In 2019, Albuquerque had 52 calls for outside fires on July 4. The annual toll for firework-related fires is severely destructive, with at least 16,000 firework-related fires reported annually across the US. 

Albuquerque’s cityscape is also a major point of concern for the upcoming holiday. The city boasts a robust tree canopy that, coupled with the recent drought and water restrictions, poses an extreme fire danger. Albuquerque’s bosque is a prime example of the upcoming dangers that fireworks pose, with fires being a common sight in the greenbelt for the last few weeks. The city has implemented stage two fire restrictions, which means a ban on open flames, smoking, and fireworks.

Fireworks have also been interpreted as a return to normalcy and a sign of recovery after the pandemic by city officials. Mayor Tim Keller announced that several city parks will host firework shows. He was optimistic about the impact that a firework show will have on the greater Albuquerque community. “For Fourth of July this year, we are excited to offer events for different comfort levels – fireworks and picnicking at Balloon Fiesta Park for those who want to attend an event, and firework displays across the metro for those who would prefer to watch with friends and family from their own backyard,” Keller said.

Balloon Fiesta Park will host a firework show on July 4 and will have 3,500 available tickets available for those who want to attend the event. Six other locations will also hold a synchronized show with Balloon Fiesta Park at 9:30 pm: North Domingo Baca Park, Expo New Mexico, Tom Tenorio Park, Ladera Golf Course, Isotopes Park, and the City of Rio Rancho. 

For more information on fire restrictions, visit cabq.gov

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