EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso County Commissioners unanimously voted Thursday morning to ban the sale of some aerial fireworks ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
The County voted to restrict sales of fireworks with sticks and missiles, also known as “sticks and fins,” which they said are some of the most prone to catching on fire.
This decision comes as drought conditions continue in El Paso County. Commissioners were shown the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) which determines forest fire potential. The threshold to ban fireworks begins at 575. El Paso is the second-driest county in Texas, with 715 on the KBDI scale
“Lack of soil moisture and not replenishing it and the forecast shows were not going to, means that extra fuel that’s grown during spring time is extra fuel to burn during fireworks time,” said Jason Laney with the National Weather Service El Paso office.
The County was presented with three options, which were to do nothing and make no restrictions, ban the sale of “sticks and fins” fireworks or allow County Judge Ricardo Samaniego to issue a local disaster and ban the sale of all fireworks for 60 hours ahead of the holiday.
Commissioners said they wanted to make the best option that would still allow for public safety and not take away business from vendors.
“We are going to have to do whatever it takes to create public safety, is there a balance between that and something that may be beneficial,” Samaniego said.
El Paso County Emergency Services District #2 Chief Roger Esparza suggested the commissioners start with a ban of the “sticks and fins” rather than go for the option that would restrict the sale of all fireworks.
However, he said there would still be those who go to New Mexico for purchase.
“Whether it’s banned or not banned we will still have a task on hand to see how we will handle fireworks coming across from New Mexico,” Esparza said.
However, Jimmy Nevarez, owner of Diablo Fireworks in Anthony, N.M., said New Mexico vendors also worked in conjunction with El Paso County to come to this decision in order to keep buyers in Texas.
“We’ve been working with El Paso county to try to pass these restrictions now so the vendors can hopefully sell the other items now in the next month coming up and part of July,” Nevarez said.
He added that a possible ban of all fireworks could happen if drought conditions worsen but urges El Paso County not to make that option as he acknowledged El Pasoans would flock to New Mexico in that instance.
“If there is a total ban, they will go to New Mexico and buy them and then go back to Texas and light them in the desert where they are not clear and pose more of a fire danger,” Nevarez said.