PORTLAND — A City Council committee is recommending that Portland prohibit sales and use of fireworks in the city once a new state law legalizing fireworks takes effect.

Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne said the city is too densely populated and built up to allow people to use fireworks.

“We really have grave concerns around a fire starting, as well as personal injuries,” he told members of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who chairs the committee, and Councilor David Marshall voted to support the prohibition. The committee’s other member, Councilor John Coyne, was unable to attend Tuesday night’s meeting.

The committee’s recommendation is scheduled to go to the City Council for adoption in September.

L.D. 83, which was enacted by the Legislature on June 29, will allow sales and use of consumer fireworks except in cities and towns that decide to prohibit them.

Consumers fireworks are considered to be less potent and smaller than those used for public displays. Federal regulations define them as any device that’s designed to produce a sound and contains as much as 130 milligrams of explosive material.

Sponsors of the bill said people in Maine already use fireworks but there are no safety programs because they are illegal. By legalizing their sale, supporters said, fireworks will create jobs and generate revenue for the state through the sales tax.

But, in Portland there appears to be little, if any, support for allowing fireworks to be sold or used.

Marshall noted that a major Portland fire was started in 1866 by children setting off fireworks near a molasses factory. He said he will lobby for a comprehensive prohibition of their sale and use.

“I’ve already had a lot of complaints from people in Parkside about fireworks going off at all hours of the night,” Marshall said.

Helen Andrews, who lives on Chester Street, said she heard fireworks going off in her neighborhood two nights ago, around 9:30 p.m.

“I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to call, but I hear (fireworks) going off all the time,” said Andrews, who told the councilors that she supports prohibiting fireworks in the city.

“The only fireworks we’re going to allow will be in this chamber on Monday nights,” Suslovic said.
Also Tuesday, committee members discussed a potential revision to the city’s ordinance governing the raising of domestic chickens.

Marshall said he wants to reduce the setback provision in the two-year-old ordinance, which is now 25 feet, to let people who live in densely populated neighborhoods such as the West End have the opportunity to raise chickens.

The ordinance permits a resident – for a $25 annual fee – to raise as many as six hens as pets in their backyard.

Under the ordinance, a henhouse must be at least 25 feet from any residential structure, including any building on an adjacent lot. Marshall feels that provision is too restrictive.

“Being able to domesticate chickens adds to the food options of people,” he said.

The issue will be discussed at the Public Safety Committee’s meeting on Sept. 13.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]