El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has approved the sale and use of most fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the county after the recent rainfall in Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico.
This is the first time in several years fireworks are allowed. Fireworks were banned before Fourth of July celebrations from 2011-2015 and again in 2019 due to drought, and in 2020 because of pandemic restrictions.
Samaniego said in a news release late Thursday the decision allows El Pasoans to celebrate one of the “most patriotic holidays.”
Samaeigo’s decision does not impact certain aerial fireworks known as “sticks and fins” that are already banned in El Paso County. That category includes bottle rockets, missiles and other firecrackers that have parts capable of falling and starting fires. All other fireworks will be allowed this weekend through midnight on Sunday, July 4.
In a week, El Paso dropped from the driest county in Texas, to the state’s tenth driest as of Friday, according to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures moisture and temperatures to determine area fire potential. Any score above 600 indicates high fire potential, and currently, El Paso sits at 497. Scores between 300 and 400 are low fire potential.
Samaniego’s said there will be an increase in law enforcement patrols throughout the county with an added focus on the eastern part of El Paso where thousands of people gather to celebrate the holiday.
Lt. Rafael Gallardo, a special operations leader for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, told El Paso Matters last month the department’s goal is to have “voluntary compliance” with the current restrictions in order to avoid issuing citations.
If there are repeated reports of misconduct, or a deputy has to respond multiple times, then citations, which can go as high as $2,000, will be issued, he said.
Cover photo: The Diablo Fireworks stand outside of Anthony, New Mexico, sits just across the Texas state line. Extreme drought conditions across New Mexico and Texas mean that certain aerial fireworks are banned because of fire risk. (Danielle Prokop/El Paso Matters)