Vern Carlow, store manager of Pyro City in Winslow, organizes shelves of fireworks on Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — Residents in November will decide at the ballot whether the use of fireworks should be banned in town, but one Winslow business that sells pyrotechnics says it will “destroy” their operation.

Town Councilor Peter Drapeau said Friday that he’s received several complaints from residents who’ve been “horrified” by loud fireworks. It was Drapeau who in August raised the question of placing a measure on the ballot for residents to decide. He said at the time that people had complained that loud fireworks were causing problems with their livestock.

Should the measure be adopted at the ballot Nov. 8, fireworks will not be allowed unless a state permit is obtained. Violators would face a fine of $250 for a first offense and $500 for violations beyond that.

A draft of the ordinance defines fireworks as anything “producing a visible or audible effect by combustion, explosion, deflagration or detonation,” including firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets and “other fireworks of like construction.” Some sparklers would still be allowed.

Placing the measure on the ballot may seem surprising to some. Winslow for about 25 years put on the largest fireworks display in the region on the Fourth of July. But after repeated concerns by town officials and others about the cost of that annual event, organizers decided to leave Winslow and move the show to Clinton.

Some residents say that fireworks continue in Winslow through much of the year. Jean Saunders, 65, a summer resident who lives on Pattee Pond, said that “ecologically sensitive area” has been ruined for the last 10 summers by noise pollution.


Saunders said she’s not opposed to fireworks, but she is against “every Tom, Dick and Harry having fireworks and setting them off at any time … It’s stunning to me. It’s wrong for the animals, it’s wrong for people with PTSD, it’s just not necessary.”

The exterior of Pyro City in Winslow is shown Friday, with its business sign urging residents to reject a ballot question that would prohibit the use of most fireworks in town. The sale of pyrotechnics would still be allowed. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Town Manager Erica LaCroix said by email Thursday that should the ballot question pass, larger pyrotechnics could still be used as part of an event in town as long as a permit is obtained through the state fire marshal’s office.

“Because this is a highly charged issue for many of our residents, council chose to send this to referendum by popular vote … In that way the decision will truly be made by the residents affected by this decision,” LaCroix said.

But Vern Carlow, 62, the store manager of Pyro City in Winslow, said he was “kinda slighted” by the council’s decision to place the measure on the ballot.

“To me, it feels like they intentionally avoided letting us know that they were even trying to do this,” Carlow said.

He has worked at the store since it opened in 2012, when the Maine Legislature lifted a 63-year ban on the sale and use of consumer fireworks. After that ban was lifted, it was left to towns and cities to decide if they wanted to regulate pyrotechnics.


Many towns in central Maine have prohibited the use and sale of fireworks since then. Those towns include Augusta, Bangor, Brunswick, Camden, Damariscotta, Randolph, Topsham and Waterville, according to the Office of State Fire Marshal. Other towns in the region have restrictions on certain types of fireworks. They include Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Lewiston, Monmouth and Oakland.

Carlow, an Oakland resident, says he’s never heard of any complaints from Winslow residents, nor from the town’s police and fire departments. He said he’s not against adopting some restrictions on using fireworks. But he opposes the heavy-handed approach taken by the council.

LaCroix said the measure would not prohibit the sale of fireworks in town, just their use. She said a representative from Pyro City who spoke at a September council meeting could not calculate what portion of sales comes from Winslow residents.

LaCroix said in her email that Pyro City is the only licensed seller of fireworks in the area and it will continue to have customers even if the Winslow proposal is adopted.

Vern Carlow, store manager of Pyro City in Winslow, organizes shelves of fireworks on Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Carlow sees it differently. “This isn’t our first rodeo,” he said.

Over the last decade there were three other Pyro City stores in towns where the law was changed to permit the sale but not the use of fireworks, he said. Two locations, in Ellsworth and Windham, eventually closed and the third one in Edgecomb is now only open seasonally. The average sale at Pyro City in Winslow is around $200, Carlow said.

He said the measure is like the town telling him, “You can have an ice cream store, but no one in Winslow can eat it.”

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