By Tony Parra and Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers
Fireworks stands operators are keeping an eye on sales as the July Fourth weekend approaches and fire department officials are keeping an eye on stand operators.
“Usually it starts to pick up the closer we get to July Fourth,” Joy Griffith of Portales said. Griffith manages the fireworks stand located in front of J.J.’s. Jumbo Burger and visible to the traffic on Chicago Avenue. She said it has been her experience for the five previous years that sales start off slow.
Griffith employs her 17-year-old daughter Heather Peebles at the fireworks stand. Dawn Jackson, who is 16, also worked alongside Peebles on Monday afternoon. The fireworks stand is open from 8 a.m. to midnight. Jackson said there have been times when customers show up at midnight wanting to buy fireworks.
Griffith said she started managing a fireworks stand because she couldn’t find a job. Six years later, Griffith continues to maintain a fireworks stand even though now she has a steady job.
Jackson said the most popular fireworks sold are the M88s for $4.50 and the Texas Eruptions fireworks, which are sparklers.
Her competition in Portales is a bright yellow fireworks stand on the other side of Chicago Avenue next to Ray’s Lube shop. On Monday afternoon, a couple of teenagers, Patrick Duffield and John Hidalgo, operated Big Bang Fireworks with two fire extinguishers in hand in case of emergencies.
“We were told it’s much busier from Wednesday through Sunday,” Hidalgo said. “We get a lot of business after 5 p.m. and in the evening.”
Portales Fire Department Chief Jesse Mowrer said he has had a representative from the fire department conduct inspections but that Mowrer will conduct inspections this week. Mowrer said he makes sure the firework stands’ operators are complying with laws and that the fireworks’ packages display safety information.
Duffield, who is from Clovis, said there are different rules for Curry County and Roosevelt County. He said they are able to sell some aerial rockets in Curry County, but not in Roosevelt County.
Clovis vendor Jeff Cahall said probably the coolest item he sells is the Oriental Lamp.
“It’s made out of paper, like those lanterns you see in Chinese restaurants,” said Cahall, who mans the fireworks booth outside of Lowe’s supermarket on 14th Street with help from his son Sierra. “Once you light it, it spins around and sparks. When it’s done, you’re still left with the lantern.”
Four other locations sell similar-type items within Clovis city limits.
“They are all fountain fireworks,” Cahall said. “They stay on the ground. You won’t find any firecrackers, rockets or aerial displays.”
According to city of Clovis and Curry County ordinances, all aerial devices — such as bottle rockets — are prohibited in the city but certain aerial devices larger than one-half inch in diameter are allowed in the county.
Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher and Capt. Michael Inge, city fire marshal, said the ordinances will be strictly enforced, in part because of this year’s especially dry terrain.
“The fact is we still have a lot of wheat fields that have not been cut yet,” Hatcher said. “We’re just asking for trouble. We’re so dry right now we’ll just burn up.”
The penalty for breaking the rules in Clovis is a fine of up to $300 or up to 90 days in jail, or both. The Curry County punishment is a fine up to $1,000 or up to a year in jail, or both.
“It’s charged as a petty misdemeanor,” Hatcher said, “but the civil ramifications (from destroying someone’s property) could be astronomical.”
Mowrer said the city of Portales and Roosevelt County have adopted the following ordinances:
l No sales allowed to children under 12.
l No sales allowed to intoxicated persons.
l No aerial fireworks are permitted (bottle rockets, roman candles or any other device which exceeds a height of six feet into the air). Devices which spray sparks into the air are permissible.
l No fireworks may be discharged within 150 feet of any fireworks sales location.
l Sales are permitted through July 6.
l No person may ignite any fireworks within a motor vehicle or throw/discharge any fireworks from a motor vehicle.
l No person may throw/discharge any fireworks at or near any person or into or near any group of people.