BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) - Belen's fire chief says the city was just trying to protect its residents with a firework ban, but it turns out they went too far.
The Belen City Council passed a ban on all fireworks in the city at an emergency meeting last week in response to Gov. Susana Martinez's calls for cities and counties to institute local restrictions.
Belen was in a rush to pass their ban because state law requires local fireworks restrictions be implemented 20 or more days before the relevant holiday, in this case July 4th.
But there's a problem with Belen's ban.
"There's part of the state statute that we were not made aware of," Belen Fire Department Chief Manny Garcia said.
State law lays out how cities and counties can ban fireworks in times of extreme drought. While local municipalities can ban aerial and "ground-audible" fireworks, certain ground and handheld fireworks can only be limited to paved and other safe areas.
That means Belen's total ban was illegal.
Wednesday the city backtracked, adjusting its ban to comply with state law. Garcia sees the situation as an opportunity.
"This is not a defeat," Garcia said. "This is a public plea for the citizens to urge caution while discharging these fireworks because all it takes is one negligent use of a firework to cause a fire."
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