AUGUSTA – Fire Chief Roger Audette grew up where fireworks were legal and popular with his classmates, and he has seen the damage they can do firsthand.

So Audette, in a recommendation seconded by City Manager William Bridgeo, believes Augusta should ban the sale and use of fireworks, despite a new state law that will allow the explosives in Maine for the first time in decades.

Audette, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, acknowledged that as a boy he was not immune to the pull of fireworks. Indeed, their attraction to children is one reason why he believes the city should not allow them.

“Every June, fireworks stands popped up everywhere,” Audette told city councilors recently. “I spent my childhood years blowing stuff up. And every year, someone at my school got hurt.

“Kids want to handle this stuff. My fear is we’re going to end up with a lot of calls and injuries if they are legalized.”

Bridgeo said he will collect fireworks ordinances from other communities — such as Portland, which has banned them — for Augusta councilors to review.

The new state law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, allows the use, possession and sale of consumer fireworks. It also allows municipalities to regulate or ban the sale and use of fireworks.

Bridgeo said he hadn’t given much thought to banning fireworks in Augusta until Audette shared information from a U.S. Fire Administration report that said state laws allowing the sale of fireworks directly affected the number of fireworks-related injuries. In one state, the 2001 report says, the number of injuries seen in emergency departments more than doubled.

“I found it instructive and, frankly, sobering,” Bridgeo said.

Audette and Police Chief Robert Gregoire said allowing fireworks could add costs for municipalities — for firefighters and ambulance crews to respond to fires and injuries, police officers to respond to complaints, and public works employees to clean up scraps of paper and other debris left behind.

“You’re going to have property damage, injuries and litter,” Gregoire said.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or:

[email protected]