As the Fourth of July approaches, towns and cities around the state are reminding Mainers about limits on the use of consumer fireworks, which are banned in many communities – including Portland – and restricted in some others.

At the same time, pyrotechnics stores are stocking up for their biggest weekend of the year.

The Legislature permitted the sale and use of fireworks in January 2012, ending a 63-year statewide ban. Since then, 49 towns have prohibited the use of fireworks outright, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office. At least 54 other towns permit fireworks by residents with certain restrictions.

Two southern Maine towns – Windham and Kennebunk – are preparing for their first July Fourth with new restrictions on the use of fireworks. The Windham Town Council adopted a new ordinance restricting the use of fireworks, and Kennebunk voters approved similar rules on the June ballot.

In both towns, the restrictions were prompted by resident complaints.

“There was a large number in town that felt an ordinance was needed,” Kennebunk police Lt. Eric O’Brien said.

Local ordinances often require permits to set off fireworks, and limit the days and hours when they are allowed. Most towns in Maine do not regulate fireworks sales or use, and restrictions are generally concentrated in southern and coastal parts of the state.

In Kennebunk, fireworks are now prohibited on any public beach, park or street. Residents should apply at the town fire station for permits to set off fireworks. Each household is limited to two permits per year, in addition to permits that are issued on July Fourth and Dec. 31. Police have been handing out postcards to educate residents about the new rules and will post message boards around town this weekend.

“I imagine the real test will be this weekend,” O’Brien said.

In Windham, fireworks also require a permit and are now restricted to the days around Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. Since the ordinance took effect in November, Police Chief Kevin Schofield said officers have issued several warnings for violations.

“I would just encourage people to be cognizant of the ordinance and seek the appropriate permits and just be aware of how impactful things can be in the neighborhood,” Schofield said.

Elsewhere in Windham, Pyro City is gearing up for holiday sales.

Manager Wade Ward said most locals know about the ordinance change in Windham. It’s the out-of-state visitors who often aren’t aware of the rules, he said.

“The main customer from my store at least is people from Massachusetts that are coming to our area to vacation,” Ward said. “They say, ‘I’m staying in Raymond, I’m staying in Windham. What are the regulations?’ ”

Most people will change their plans if they find out the town they are visiting restricts fireworks, Ward said.

“A majority of people know that you can get in a lot of trouble if you set off fireworks illegally, so a lot of people tone back what they were going to buy,” he said.

Data from Maine Revenue Services, the state tax agency, show fireworks sales have decreased since 2012, when the ban was first lifted. That year, retailers sold $7.1 million worth of fireworks. In 2016, that figure was $6.1 million.

But sales in the months of June and July have remained consistent over that same period – between $4.1 million and $4.3 million annually for those two months alone.

At Big Al’s Fireworks in Wiscasset, owner Al Cohen said he has learned to keep the shelves stocked up to the last minute of shopping on July Fourth.

“We have more in stock than we’ve ever had before,” Cohen said.

Jeff Graham, manager of Phantom Fireworks in Scarborough, said people buy fireworks throughout the year, but the Independence Day holiday is definitely the busiest.

“You could use the words, ‘Macy’s at Christmas,'” Graham said.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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