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Freedom 4th event returns to Albuquerque amid "exceptional drought" conditions

Gino Gutierrez
Albuquerque fire marshal Chris Romero (left) and Albuquerque fire chief Gene Gallegos (right) at a press conference held Monday

After a two year hiatus, Albuquerque’s freedom fourth is coming back to balloon fiesta park. The large fireworks display has been made possible by the recent amount of rainfall the duke city has seen over the past few weeks.

Chief Administrative Officer for the city Lawrence Rael said the event will give the residents of Albuquerque and Bernalillo county an opportunity to celebrate the holiday together.

“It’s going to give our families from all over the city and quite frankly in many ways the region to come and enjoy the celebration of summer if you will, also to enjoy the great fireworks display that occurs as a part of the event and it’s going to be a fun time”.

City officials also hope this event will deter individuals from holding their own fireworks shows, and especially amid the historic start to the wildfire season in New Mexico.

In April, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order urging New Mexico’s municipalities and counties to ban the retail sale of fireworks in their communities. Lujan Grisham cited New Mexico's severe drought conditions as the cause for the call to ban fireworks.

Last month, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to ban both fireworks and open fires this summer. Even with the rainfall, 52.17% of New Mexico, including Bernalillo County, still remain in a “exceptional drought” condition, according to the United States Drought Monitor as of June 21st.

Chirs Romero, who is the fire marshall for the city of Albuquerque, said the city still remains hyper vigilant for fireworks and other possible fire starters.

“The city of Albuquerque is currently in stage two fire restrictions for the bosque, foothills, and open space areas. This means no open flames or campfires  , no smoking, no fireworks. Although we’ve had some recent rainfall, we are still experiencing drought conditions.”

Romero spoke about the importance of not using illegal fireworks during these drought conditions, saying that any fireworks purchased outside of the city limits are considered illegal. A tip he gave is for individuals to read the warning label on their fireworks. If it reads “warning”, it is illegal, but if it reads “caution”, it is legal.

“If you do plan on using legal fireworks, please remember the following things. Fireworks of any kind are not to be discharged in the bosque, foothills, open space areas, or city parks. Fireworks should only be used on paved or barren areas, away from homes, vegetations and combustible materials. Make sure to have a water source available, such as a charged garden hose to put out unintended fires. Dispose of all used fireworks in a bucket of water and make sure they are completely cool to the touch before putting them in a garbage can. And always make sure to have an adult present and never allow children to use fireworks, to avoid improper use and injuries,” Romero said.

If you happen to see someone using illegal fireworks, Romero and city officials advise you not to call 911, instead, use the cabq 311 app. For more information on how to report illegal fireworks, you can visit the website and search how to report illegal fireworks. Those caught using illegal fireworks could be subject to a fine of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

The fireworks display at Balloon Fiesta is scheduled to begin at 9:00pm on July 4th, weather permitting. Romero said he will have the final say on if the fireworks will be launched depending on the conditions.

Freedom Fourth is free for anyone to attend and gates open at 3:30pm and will be running until 10:00pm or 10:30pm according to Shelle Sanchez, director of the city's Arts and Culture Department.

There is a parking fee of $10 for those parking near the field. Park-And-Ride is also available to shuttle people to-and-from Coronado and Cottonwood shopping centers to Balloon Fiesta park for free. Visitors are asked not to bring in glass bottles or to carry in alcohol.

There will be food trucks, live music, and a mix of children’s activities such as face-painting and an inflatable bounce house.

To sign up for text alerts on possible weather delays and Freedom 4th event updates, text FREEDOM4 to 78015.

Gino Gutierrez was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A lifelong resident of New Mexico, Gino found interest in broadcasting after falling in love with sports and sports broadcasting. He attended the University of New Mexico, where he majored in mass media journalism. While at UNM, he worked the New Mexico Daily Lobo, serving as both sports and managing editor. He can also be heard providing play-by-play commentary for the Lobo Hockey Network.