During a single incident Thursday, police in Winslow summoned six people for violating consumer fireworks laws.

At 8:52 p.m., in a public park, five minors were cited for being too young to use and possess fireworks; one adult was cited for furnishing fireworks to them. Sgt. Haley Fleming said the minors admitted to their misdeed, but the adult claimed ignorance of the law.

“However, he was provided with a pamphlet,” Fleming said. “Everyone who buys fireworks is provided with a pamphlet that explains the basic laws.”

Fleming is correct. Under licensing regulations by the Maine Office of State Fire Marshal, consumer fireworks stores must display a list of Maine towns that restrict the use of fireworks and provide a “safety pamphlet.”

At five statewide locations for fireworks store Pyro City Maine, sales clerks give each customer a copy of their four-page booklet “Fireworks Safety Brochure,” said Lance Blackstone, manager of the Winslow store. The booklet contains provisions of state and federal law, and about 20 safety tips.

At the state level, the laws governing use of fireworks are relatively sparse. Maine Revised Statute Title 8, Chapter 9-A, which went into effect Jan. 1, spells out dozens of laws regarding the marketing and sales of fireworks, but offers just three provisions for consumers.

In brief, fireworks:
• can only be used from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., except certain holidays.
• must be used on one’s own property, unless permission is given to use another’s property.
• can not be possessed by or furnished to anyone younger than 21.

While police around the state respond to scores of complaints about fireworks — noise complaints, reports of irresponsible use, and more — Assistant State Fire Marshal Rich McCarthy said the provisions in the law are adequate.

For instance, in Winslow there have been reports of people throwing fireworks out of moving cars. In those cases, the fireworks were lit on state or municipal property in violation of the law, McCarthy said.

In cases where fireworks users are complying with the three provisions but are, for instance,  jeopardizing someone’s safety, other laws can be applied.

“There are a multitude of other laws that come into play when somebody uses something outside their intended scope,” he said.

McCarthy said that adding more provisions to govern the use of fireworks would be cumbersome, and ultimately impractical.

“You couldn’t cover everything that people might do that they shouldn’t do,” he said.

In June, the fire marshal’s office issued a press release urging caution with fireworks displays. The release mentioned the three provisions governing fireworks use, and offered three times as many safety tips:
• Avoid areas or conditions that are susceptible to fires, such as dry grass or timber.
• Keep a garden hose, water bucket or fire extinguisher nearby.
• Wear eye protection.
• Follow all directions provided on packaging.
• Light only one device at a time.
• Keep spectators at a safe distance.
• Be considerate of neighbors, pets and the environment.
• Clean up debris when finished.
• Stand clear of any device that does not discharge for at least 15 minutes. Then douse it in water.
• Maintain close supervision of children; keep them at a safe distance and make sure fireworks are kept out their reach.

McCarthy said the state law requires his office to provide a yearly report on any fireworks-related fires or injuries.

McCarthy said he doesn’t have specific figures yet, but said he’s aware of about five small brush fires and a few injuries caused by fireworks use. McCarthy said he wasn’t sure whether the injuries were minor or serious.

In Winslow, the six people charged in Thursday’s incident were lighting fireworks at Norton Street playground. Fleming said they could have also been summoned for lighting fireworks on public property, but they were warned instead.

Pyro City Maine’s fireworks safety brochure does not mention that users must only light fireworks on their own property, or seek permission from a property owner.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239
[email protected]

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