July 3, 2013

Patchwork Maine fireworks laws make July 4th difficult

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Scarborough Police Officer Michael Beeler is on duty at Phantom Fireworks in Scarborough on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. Management of Phantom Fireworks hired Scarborough Police for special duty as the Fourth of July approaches.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Shane Gardner of Millinocket stocks up for a neighborhood fireworks show at Phantom Fireworks in Scarborough on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

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The average customer spends $200 to $250, and some individuals and groups spend well over $1,000, Mitchell said.

While those sales are great for the state economy, not all communities see fireworks as great.

Saco Police Chief Brad Paul said his department was so inundated with complaints after the state legalized fireworks last year that he urged the City Council to impose a local ban.

"It sounded like the wild west," Paul said. "Sometimes, in town, it sounded like they were watching 'World at War' with the television turned all the way up."

Paul said he feels the city has gotten a handle on fireworks problems since it passed its ordinance. Police still get complaints from areas near Saco's four beaches, especially Ferry Beach and Kinney Shores Beach, where housing is more clustered.

"We have scheduled several extra employees" for enforcement on the Fourth of July, he said. "We will be on the beaches both in uniform and plainclothes."

In towns including Cumberland, officials have found that limiting fireworks to July 3-5, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day has been effective in curbing problems during the rest of the year.

"I think we've heard less of it now than when it was illegal," said Cumberland Police Chief Joe Charron. "If somebody is inclined to set off fireworks, and they know there are a couple times a year that they can do that, they look forward to doing that."

Many towns without their own police have no way to enforce any fireworks ordinances they pass. The towns are patrolled by state police or sheriff's departments, which by state law cannot enforce town ordinances.

Taylor said the Fire Marshal's Office faced loopholes in the law that allow fireworks sales at outdoor stands and don't require indoor retailers to have sprinkler systems.

"It's not the first time a brand-new law is released and comes across with a few quirks," Taylor said.

The Legislature considered 15 bills to alter the law this year, but none passed and only two were carried over to next session, he said.

-- Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers contributed to this report.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:


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One of many varieties of fireworks stock the shelves at Phantom Fireworks in Scarborough on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer


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