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Fireworks watch in effect as officials monitor sale of banned items

Curry County Deputy Larry Garrison, right, inspects a Roadrunner fireworks stand owned by Mike Hall of Texico Monday afternoon. The stand was in compliance with all safety regulations, according to Garrison. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

Heightened concerns over dry conditions have Curry County officials closely monitoring fireworks sales.

A ban imposed by the Curry County Commission in April that limits sales of fireworks to mostly ground displays because of extreme dry conditions is still in effect as July Fourth approaches.

The city fire marshal and fire chief spent Thursday and Friday inspecting fireworks stands, checking inventories for compliance and discussing regulations, Fire Marshal Allan Silvers said.

“If we find any illegal fireworks on site, we will pull their license and they will not be able to do business (in Curry County) this season,” Silvers said. “Our primary focus is to educate vendors so we can work together so they can stay open,” Silvers said.

Banned are such items as rockets, helicopters and aerial spinners, and ground-audible fireworks are restricted to areas that are paved or have a readily accessible source of water.

Curry County fireworks vendors can expect more visits from law enforcement than usual this year as the Fourth of July approaches under the cloud of a stringent fire ban, according to officials.

Vendors are prohibited from having banned items at their stands, whether they are being offered for sale or not, Silvers said. If a violation is found, each employee present can be fined and the stand can be shut down.

Sheriff Roger Hatcher said he has instructed his deputies to spot-check the stands during their respective shifts.

“It’s not that we’re trying to be jerks or anything else. We’re trying to protect people. ... Unfortunately their product is something that could cause fire, and we don’t need a fire right now,” Hatcher said.

The extra inspections have been positive overall, according to Silvers.

“Enforcement of any law is going to be challenging. We want to be able to work with them but at the same time we have a no-tolerance policy,” he said.

County officials have said fire bans will not be lifted unless significant rain occurs and the area turns the corner on heightened fire risks.

Mr. W Fireworks operates three of the 11 licensed stands in Curry County.

Owner Wayne Wildman said he understands the situation.

“We won’t receive any citations as long as we comply. I think we’ve been fine. We’re working together (with local officials). They’re not trying to put us out of business, and we’re not trying to do something were not supposed to.”

Mr. W Fireworks, based out of Somerset, Texas, has 500 locations in three states, he said.

Bans and restrictions occur in different areas almost every year, Wildman said, but the effect they have on sales is varied. With stands just opening last week, it is difficult to tell how sales in Curry County will go this season, Wildman said.

He said a lot of areas have initiated fire bans this year throughout the Midwest where his company sells products, but he is optimistic his business will do well regardless of limitations on the type of products sold.

Customers will still buy fireworks even if their choices are restricted, Wildman said.

“It might slow us down, but they’re going to buy something. ... Everybody loves fireworks — it’s like apple pie,” he said.