Thunderstorms kept fireworks-related problems to a minimum on the Fourth of July, police and fire officials said Thursday. Only scattered injuries were reported during the first holiday in 63 years with fireworks legal for consumers in Maine.

The holiday came with warnings about fireworks safety and education, including classes given by fireworks stores for safety workers.

The law legalizing retail sales of fireworks, passed last year, took effect Jan. 1. Many towns and cities, including Portland, South Portland, Augusta and Waterville adopted ordinances banning sales and use of fireworks.

Portland police said they got a deluge of complaints during the holiday, despite an early evening downpour that forced the postponement of the public fireworks display on the Eastern Promenade. The department got 90 calls regarding fireworks. Last year, it got just four, said Cmdr. Gary Rogers.

So far this year, Portland police have fielded 299 fireworks-related calls, up from 32 calls for the same period last year, Rogers said.

“It’s concerning to have these things in an urban environment, which is why the city banned them for public use,” Rogers said. “It’s a problem when you have this population density and tall buildings.”

In Standish on Wednesday, a 31-year-old man suffered second-degree burns to his face when fireworks he had modified blew up in his face.

In Hiram, a 39-year-old man reached into a tube for a shell that he thought was a dud and it went off, burning his hand.

And in Harrison, a big box of fireworks was found burning in a street, said Joe Thomas, the state’s acting fire marshal.

“These injuries are a direct result of human error, either using them improperly or doing something that the device was not intended to be used for,” Thomas said. “The only thing I’m pleased about is, we’re not looking at any children injured.”

Enforcement of fireworks infractions is difficult, police said.

Under the law, it’s legal throughout Maine to possess fireworks. In communities that prohibit their use, police may get complaints and investigate, but unless someone is shooting off fireworks when officers arrive, the officers can’t do much.

“It makes enforcement very difficult,” said South Portland police Lt. Todd Bernard.

Festivities will continue during the rest of this week, so other fireworks incidents are possible, Bernard said.

There’s no shortage of fireworks for sale.

Jarred Falls, manager of Phantom Fireworks in Scarborough, said the store had about 1,700 customers Wednesday. Customers bought mostly firecrackers and many boxed assortments.

In an effort to prevent problems, the store provides safety tips on its shopping bags and hands out sheets of safety tips to customers.

Hospitals around Maine said they had normal holiday volume in their emergency rooms, with few fireworks-related incidents.

“We actually saw less volume than prior years, due to the rain,” said Michael Baumann, chief of emergency medicine at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Baumann said the hospital treated some people who had had accidents, but no fatalities or serious incidents.

Typically, fireworks-related injuries involve burns, finger and hand injuries, and occasional eye injuries, Baumann said.


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