Santa Feans could be forgiven if they peered into the sky after dark on the Fourth of July and didn’t realize a fireworks ban was in effect.

Illegal private pyrotechnic displays could viewed for hours across the city — including several launched from the busy Santa Fe Place parking lot, where the local Kiwanis Club had organized a professional show for the city of Santa Fe.

Both the Santa Fe County Commission and the City Council prohibited sales and use of fireworks amid extreme drought conditions and concerns of fire danger.

Still, not a single citation was issued in the area.

That wasn’t a surprise to Santa Fe resident Hilary Vermont, who called the fireworks ban a “big fat joke.”

Vermont, who lives near the Railyard District, wrote in an email she’s tried to get law enforcement to respond to illegal fireworks in her neighborhood for the past 25 years but hasn’t gotten anywhere.

She often finds spent fireworks in her yard and watches people set them off near the railroad tracks and in dumpsters, she wrote.

One year, Vermont added, she stood with a water hose, hoping to deter anyone from throwing fireworks over her fence and into her yard.

She recently called to report illegal use of fireworks but received an apathetic response from a dispatcher, who never even asked for her name or location, Vermont wrote.

She has no faith local law enforcement could enforce a ban, she said.

City spokesman Dave Herndon wrote in an email the Santa Fe Police Department received 131 calls about illegal fireworks but issued no citations.

It was the third year in a row officers failed to cite anyone for illegal Independence Day displays.

Santa Fe County spokeswoman Carmelina Hart provided data showing the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center, which serves both the city and county, received 181 fireworks complaints. The data includes the Edgewood Police Department, which fielded eight calls.

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Ríos said deputies responded to about 48 calls, none of which resulted in a ticket — which could have resulted in a fine of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail for an offender.

Ríos said deputies have to catch someone in the act of launching a rocket to write a ticket.

“It’s challenging,” he said. “Even in the time when you have an actual ban, like we do now, it’s very challenging to get people to understand that they shouldn’t be shooting off fireworks. Again, the challenge is catching someone in the literal act of setting them off.”

The proliferation of pyrotechnics also plays a role.

While counties and cities might ban the sale, Ríos said, it’s easy for residents to purchase fireworks in nearby communities or from temporary vendors set up on tribal lands.

The fireworks bans prohibit the sale and use of missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, stick-type rockets and ground audible devices. They were put in place as the Western United States is parched by drought conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly all of New Mexico was in some state of drought July 1, the most recent data available, with 30 percent experiencing exceptional drought — the most severe conditions.

The county’s ban will expire July 29, while the city’s ban will end Aug. 10.

Herndon wrote in an email the city’s fireworks ban was put in place primarily to mitigate fire risk, which was accomplished over Independence Day weekend.

The Santa Fe Fire Department responded to one small brush fire, which was extinguished immediately, Herndon wrote.

The city will enforce the ban, as needed, as long as it is in effect, he wrote, but also will continue to educate the public about fire safety.

The fireworks bans did not affect the city’s annual Fourth of July show organized by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe.

Before, during and after the city’s show at Santa Fe Place mall, however, prohibited fireworks were set off with impunity in and around the mall parking lot, which was monitored by local police.

Herndon wrote in an email police patrolling at Santa Fe Place were overseeing safety of attendees, not fireworks enforcement.

Asked whether police considered the use of missile-style fireworks in a crowded parking lot a safety risk, Herndon wrote, “The PD was actively monitoring the scene and taking actions it deemed appropriate to maintain public safety.”

(19) comments

Khal Spencer

By the time the city and county announced the ban, I suspect everyone had brought his/her/their stash home from various vendors. Asking the cops to go around citing everyone shooting off fireworks would be an insane job under those conditions, especially when so many did not take the ban seriously. The city just put the cops between a rock and a hard place. Kinda like if the city told SFPD to go around and arrest everyone smoking pot. Ain't gonna happen.

If we want to get a handle on this, we need to ban the sale statewide and negotiate with the Tribals to do so as well. Until then, well, more of the same. Keep your hose handy, as I used to have to do in Honolulu. Everyone loved fireworks in Honolulu. Place sounded like the Battle of Verdun on New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year.

Lupe Molina

Don't let them off the hook so easy Khal. We all know cops can't arrest perpetrators of all crimes but that's not an excuse to just not enforce the law at all. If my house had burned down because of some idiot with a roman candle, and then found out 0 citations were issued, I might have a good case to sue the city, which the rest of us would pay for. That's the problem here. These police are consistently negligent and its a liability to the safety of us citizens and the city's embattled finances.

Khal Spencer

I would have liked to see some summonses issued, to be sure.

Speaking of fires. Back in Honolulu in the 1990's, our neighbors and ourselves were sitting in my living room drinking way too much champagne on a New Year's Eve. It was during a serious drought in Hawai'i and I had complained to the neighbors earlier that evening about shooting off rockets, as their rockets were landing all over the place, including in bone dry but tall tropical grasses. They basically gave me That Look and ignored me.

So closing on on midnight, the four of us, me, my wife, Nancy, and Dan, are sitting around killing a magnum of champagne and I suspect our BAC was collectively enough to use our breath as a blowtorch. Sure enough I look out the window and see a flicker two houses down, at the neighbor of the people I had complained to earlier in the day. From our picture window, I saw a fire on the roof. My wife tried the 911 number but there were so many fires that the fire dept. was overwhelmed and we couldn't get through.

Nancy, my neighbor who had built dams while in the Peace Corps, and I grabbed my extension ladder out of the garage, ran down the street, put up the ladder on the guy's house and with a couple kids from next door put the fire out ourselves with a garden hose. If we had waited for the HFD, the house woulda burned. I suppose if we fell off the roof we would have felt no pain.

Suddenly, those folks with the rockets looked pretty sheepish.

Yeah, I take it seriously.

Joe Brownrigg

A neighbor went to a moderate-size town in Colorado. NO FIREWORKS!! NONE!!!

If the city police have to literally catch someone lighting fireworks in order arrest them, just imagine what this pallid principle would mean for other bans: robbing banks, shooting someone, beating up someone, destroying property. Just imagine! Oh, yes. We could also have street races and have exhaust systems that rival private jet engines! Just let your imagination run...

It seems apparent that our police were following orders NOT to issue any tickets. Period!

Rick Salazar

This is why it continues to happen. What the heck were the police doing that night, setting off their own fireworks?

Molly Mix

Probably responding to the boatloads of REAL crimes being committed non-stop in this city, which is fine by me.

Randy Barron

Really? Try visiting a large city. Santa Fe is sleepy as can be. There's no reason the police can't issue at least a few citations to get the attention of idiots who don't care about other people or their terrorized pets.

Lupe Molina

Santa Feans need a refund on their taxes paid for policing. Without exaggeration, they seem to literally do nothing but meet up in parking lots and chat. I called them yesterday over a possible asset and they just never showed up.

Lupe Molina

Assault* sorry. And a sister article shows what a difference in policing can yield. The forest service reported "tranquility" over the weekend. When law enforcement does its job, constituents respect it, like with the forest service. But they know you're not going to show up or do anything, like SFPD, why follow the law if its not convenient for you?

Charlotte Rowe

Agreed. The fireworks especially just infuriate me. It seems a third of the local population are a bunch of pathological monsters who don't give a rat's that they are literally terrorizing their neighbors and their neighbors' pets. Their parents did a lousy job of instilling ethics in them and the police do a lousy job of enforcing laws. Unless they get to shoot somebody.

Lupe Molina

I mean, its the 4th of July. Society can be inconvenient and I'm not against fireworks once a year even if my dog hates it. But they were banned because of fire danger which can obviously be terribly damaging. But you're right, when cops don't show up it gives people to break the law with impunity.

Cheryl Odom

They're still happening nightly in and near Las Acequias Park. I was one of the "Karen's" who called because there is a dry weed filled empty lot directly behind the park. It seemed dangerous and most of my neighbors were complaining.

Elizabeth Pettus

Good for you! And the misogynists who love to use the term “Karen’s” need to find another term (not you, them). Although it would still be a female name, Gladys (for Gladys Kravitz) would at least make sense.

Charlotte Rowe

Oh, Elizabeth. LOL you have dated yourself here. How many of us remember Gladys Kravitz! But I agree about the misogyny. Popular media and societal myths almost always assume that interfering tattletale busybodies are female, when in fact in reality it's about 50/50. But who has always controlled the media? Bingo.

Khal Spencer

Too bad someone could not have twiched their nose back and forth and made all the fireworks turn into duds.

Robert Kowalski

Looks like 181 Karens were upset Sunday.

Charlotte Rowe

And here we have a prime example of a whining, cowardly misogynistic almost-male.

Dan Frazier

A ban issued just before the 4th is a joke. A ban, if it is to have any effect, would be issued at least several weeks in advance, and would be well publicized. Ideally, the ban would be permanent, and be publicized annually around the 4th.

I think the police should have at least tried to respond to illegal fireworks displays, perhaps warning offenders, and issuing citations to folks who persisted. It might help a lot if we had an adequately staffed police department. Perhaps before the ban was considered, the police should have been consulted about whether the police would make an effort to support such a ban. Or maybe it is assumed that the police will enforce the laws?

I guess I should be glad that the police did not shoot anyone.

Charlotte Rowe

Somehow I don't think, however far in advance, any ban would alter the behavoir of the troglodytes who get their machismo fix by blowing things up. It's too strong a primal urge, like farting and belching. And about as polite.

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