29 Jun Pftt. Bang! BANG! KABOOM!!
Maine’s fireworks law has now been in effect since the 125th Legislature allowed municipal ordinances to govern possession, sale and use of pyrotechnics. Currently, thirty-nine communities prohibit the sales or use of consumer fireworks. Though many a festive occasion calls for setting off some celebratory skyward displays, is the Fourth of July (right around the corner) that sends us to the store for Blinkers, Blockbusters and Blossoms. So what do we know about our fireworks tradition and how to use them safely?
As with many things, fireworks pre-date the founding of the United States. Peter the Great of Russia and Louis IV of France loved the night time shows. But it is said that John Adams declared that all sorts of reverie including illuminations” should light up the land for ever more in celebration of our nation’s founding. Not a moment of nationhood-time was wasted as the first annual displays were set off in Philadelphia and Boston in 1777.
About eighty seven years later, fireworks in Portland got out of hand and resulted in burning much of the downtown in the Great Fire of 1864. Just as a footnote, the building of Lincoln Park in front of the courthouses had a practical purpose as it created a firebreak along the spine of the peninsula.
Fireworks in Maine were banned for decades due to fires and injuries but in 2011, the Maine Legislature allowed municipalities to permit the use of fireworks if they chose. Many debated the opportunity and decided that density, safety, noise and potential abuse were not worth the trouble. Some were concerned that limited volunteer fire departments could be over-taxed should several incidents get out of hand.
For those that have not adopted an ordinance, the state has general guidelines that are prudent in preserving the peace:
Maine Public Law Chapter 416, provides the following applicable guidelines for using these products.
1.§ 223-A. §§ 8 (A) Consumer fireworks may be used between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 10 p.m., except that on the following dates they may be used between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. the following day: (1) July 4th; (2) December 31st; and (3) The weekends immediately before and after July 4th and December 31st.
2.§ 223-A. §§ 8 (B) A person may use consumer fireworks only on that person’s property or on the property of a person who has consented to the use of consumer fireworks on that property. A person who violates this subsection commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $50 and not more than $500, plus court costs, may be adjudged for any one offense.
3.§ 223-A. §§ 11 (D) A person under 21 years of age may not purchase, use or possess consumer fireworks within the State of Maine.
4.§221-A, §§1-A The following products are prohibited for use in Maine. A. Missile-type rockets, as defined by the State Fire Marshal by rule; B. Helicopters and aerial spinners, as defined by the State Fire Marshal by rule; and C. Sky rockets and bottle rockets. For purposes of this paragraph, “sky rockets and bottle rockets” means cylindrical tubes containing not more than 20 grams of chemical composition, as defined by the State Fire Marshal by rule, with a wooden stick attached for guidance and stability that rise into the air upon ignition and that may produce a burst of color or sound at or near the height of flight.
Seventy-five percent of all fireworks accidents involve males who are old enough to know better. Guys – mixing alcohol and fire isn’t a great idea and can be the catalyst to an unintended accident. If you’re going to celebrate with fireworks, here’s what the Consumer Product Safety Commission offers as reminders about safety based on their experience:
- Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
Whether your community allows fireworks or not, have a happy, safe and memorable Fourth!