City relying on web, 311 app for illegal fireworks reporting this year

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As they do each year, big booms in the sky will soon trigger a flood of reports of illegal fireworks to the city of Albuquerque. This year, however, people will not be able to make reports via an illegal fireworks hotline.

Instead, the city is relying entirely on people to report illegal fireworks via the 311 app, or to submit a form at fireworks.cabq.gov. No live person will be answering phone calls.

“It comes in quicker, it’s easier to review and get us dispatched out to them,” Darrick Pino with the Albuquerque Fire Department told KRQE News 13. Pino said this new method will be better than the hotline.

But firefighters have expressed concern over losing the hotline. They worry instead, people will call 911, clogging up the lines and busying first responders who should be going to true emergencies.

It’s a sentiment even Fire Chief David Downey expressed two years ago when advocating the hotline.

“Before we used to have the hotline, the 400 calls a night would go to 911 — not only does it tie up the 911 operators for the real emergencies, we don’t get the dispatches to the real emergencies out as quickly,” he said in 2015.

On Thursday, AFD said there is a concern people will call 911. But the Fire Marshal’s Office, which investigates the reports, says they hope this exposure will curb that.

“Please, do not call 911 for illegal fireworks,” Pino said. “Someone sick, heart attacks, car accident, fires – those are the things we need 911 available for.”

Of the 2,300 plus reports of illegal fireworks last year, AFD says half came in through the 311 app while the other half were via phone call.

As for what’s legal and what’s not, the rule of thumb is, if you have to look up at it, it’s illegal within city limits.

“Not go any higher than 10 feet in the air or no wider than six feet in diameter,” Pino said.

Fireworks you can legally buy and use in Albuquerque will say “caution,” on each individual product rather than “warning.”