Nothing says "Happy Fourth of July" like shooting off enough explosives to annoy your neighbors and scare all the dogs in the neighborhood. This year, though, you're going to have to find another way to say it.

As a result of the worsening drought conditions,  El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has used his powers to issue a Declaration of Local Disaster banning the sale and use of fireworks beginning at noon on Friday, July 3.

The recent surge in positive COVID cases also figured in to the decision he and County Commissioners Carlos Leon and David Stout made to invoke the declaration available to the judge. Popping fireworks in the Montana Vista area has always drawn thousands of El Pasoans on the Fourth, which the court acknowledged would have made keeping participants to groups of 100 or less per the governor’s directive impossible.

Initially, drought conditions did not reach the minimum limit of 575 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index for a ban. However, the KBDI, which is what is used to determine potential fire risks due to drought conditions, has been increasing by three to four points daily since June 15.

As of Monday, June 29, the KBDI for El Paso was 581 giving Samaniego the latitude to issue the Local Disaster declaration banning the sale, use and possession of fireworks beginning at noon on Friday, July 3 and through the July Fourth weekend.

Using or possession fireworks in the county while the declaration is in place is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.

You cannot buy, possess, or shoot fireworks inside El Paso city limits either, or within the city limits of the Town of Horizon City, City of San Elizario, Clint, City of Socorro, Village of Vinton, or the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.