WINSLOW — In the hours leading up to the Fourth of July, sales of consumer fireworks were skyrocketing. So were complaints.

On Tuesday, fireworks store Pyro City Maine on China Road raked in more than $60,000 in sales, according to store manager Lance Blackstone. According to police logs for Waterville, Winslow and Somerset County, police responded to more than 40 complaints on the same day.

Wednesday was the first Fourth of July since a decades-old ban on consumer fireworks was lifted Jan. 1. Since then, fireworks stores have been cropping up throughout the state, and so have noise complaints. In Waterville, complaints became so overwhelming, the City Council banned the use and sale of fireworks within city limits, effective June 18.

Sgt. Haley Fleming said there were about 10 incidents in Winslow on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning. In total, Winslow police have fielded about 75 complaints since June 1 — the day after Pyro City’s opening day. Fleming said fireworks calls are time-consuming.

“Very much so,” he said.

State law limits fireworks use to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., but police receive complaints during those hours, and some of those calls are legitimate, he said.

“If there’s a cooperative victim complaining about the noise, then fireworks can fall under disorderly conduct or noise violations,” Fleming said. “So we’re trying to make the residents happy and also let people enjoy their fireworks. We try to engage the two (parties), make sure everybody feels like they win, and it can take a lot of time.”

An advisory committee in Winslow is studying the issue. Its four members — the police chief, the fire chief and two town councilors — don’t plan to recommend an outright ban on using fireworks, but they may recommend some restrictions when they present their findings to the Town Council later this month.

On Wednesday afternoon, Pyro City was bustling. Outside, more than 50 vehicles filled the parking lot; inside, three cashiers struggled to keep up with long lines of customers.

One of those customers was Amanda Greenwood, of Winslow. Greenwood was about to spend $150 on fireworks for a Fourth of July display, but she said some fireworks displays are disturbing.

“They were going off all night last night. All night,” she said. “My neighbors are all grown adults, and they were doing them all night. I don’t mind fireworks as long as they’re not going off at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Waterville resident Melissa Reynolds also was waiting in line Wednesday. She was buying a large package of sparklers — which were legal in Maine before Jan. 1, and are still legal in Waterville — for her two children. She said she would rather see restrictions on the days or hours of use of fireworks in Waterville, rather than an outright ban.

Waterville resident Justin Liebowitz agreed.

“As long as we have the safety of children first and foremost in mind, and fireworks aren’t going off during all hours of the night, I think they can be fun for everyone,” he said.

Critics of Waterville’s ban say fireworks use will subside once the novelty wears off and the Fourth of July passes. Christina Katsikas, owner of Hookset Fireworks in Hookset, N.H., said 80 percent of her yearly sales occur between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

“Sales drop right off after the Fourth,” she said.

Katsikas added that sales of fireworks were particularly strong this season because the Fourth fell in midweek, so customers were buying fireworks for the weekends before and after the holiday.

Waterville police Sgt. Dan Goss said his department responded to more than 20 fireworks complaints Tuesday. He’s not convinced fireworks use will be noticeably different any time soon.

“It’s still too new,” he said. “I suspect they’ll taper off eventually, but I don’t expect that they’ll stop on the fifth of July.”

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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