Despite several calls in the community to halt the annual fireworks display, town of Taos officials say the show will go on as planned and will be the safest way to enjoy fireworks for the Fourth of July Wednesday.
Drought conditions in Taos have extended well into the normal monsoon season for 2018 causing the town and Taos County governments to crack down on civilian fireworks. Both have passed ordinances banning aerial fireworks in the area due to the intense fire danger presented by the current lack of precipitation. Area residents have written letters both on social media and to The Taos News calling for the town to hold off on this year's display, however town officials say the fireworks show is the best way to prevent additional fires on the Fourth of July.
"Prior to our 4th of July events we were responding to well over 60-70 calls on the night of the 4th through-out our response area," said Taos Fire Chief Leroy Gonzales. "The last few years we have experienced no fireworks-related calls during the event."
The annual fireworks display is in a controlled area of downtown where officials say no buildings or grass areas will be compromised. The ignition zone is roped off to pedestrian and vehicle traffic and is closely monitored by fire officials from the town. Town Manager Rick Bellis said the site has the "least risk and has the greatest level of protection" for a display. Only a change in the weather would alter plans for the display.
The town is urging the community to avoid shooting off fireworks.
"I greatly appreciate everyone’s concern and support for our fire restrictions, fireworks restrictions and water conservation efforts during this serious drought," said Bellis in an email. "This is one area that they can help us and have fun at the same time by attending and supporting a fun, safe controlled celebration."
In the month of June alone Taos Fire Department responded to 84 calls, 24 of which were grass and brush fire, according to Gonzales. The numbers are higher than normal this year, which Gonzales and other officials have attributed to the dry conditions.
Residents are saying the fire danger is too risky to even have a controlled fireworks show and have urged the town to forego their annual display for the year. "I'm pretty concerned about the Town's plans to go ahead with the fireworks display on July 4," said Kayce Leopold in a letter to The Taos News. "This drought is pretty extreme, and all's it takes is a spark. Even with the fire department personnel at hand, it seems pretty risky."
Nearly all of New Mexico is currently classified as under some sort of drought conditions with Taos County being categorized as "exceptional drought" which is the highest level on the chart. The Taos Town Council has passed ordinances and resolutions declaring fire restrictions and banning aerial fireworks due to the drought and have even gone as far as collaborating with the business community to remove firework stands from town limits.
A number of community members are still saying the restrictions are not enough and that the town should cancel their display to set an example for the community.
"It's beyond stupidity to have a firework show in these conditions," said Facebook user Jennifer Flower on a social media post.
Law enforcement will be present during the celebrations to ensure the town is following to ordinance set in place and will be on the lookout for illegal airborne fireworks. Those found in violation of the firework ban could be fined $500.
Those interested in viewing the Town's display can visit Kit Carson Park at 4 p.m. on Wednesday (July 4) with music starting at 4:30 p.m. Fireworks will start at 9 p.m. Viewers are encouraged to bring a chair to enjoy the display.