Greenwood selectmen rankled over unenforced fireworks rules

GREENWOOD — “For the last three weeks, dispatch on Friday and Saturday nights has just been flooded with fireworks calls,” Greenwood Fire Chief Al Curtis Jr. told selectmen last week. “Especially now that we’ve got two stores within four or five miles of us.”

And, as fire chief, he gets three or four calls Thursday nights and through the weekend.

The sale and use of consumer fireworks became legal in Maine on Jan. 1, except in municipalities that have opted to ban one or both activities. Soon after, officials in most towns began hearing complaints from their residents.

The legislation legalizing fireworks was accompanied by new laws governing their use, including the rule that they not be set off after 10 in the evening. But that rule, like others regarding fireworks, is being widely flouted.

In Greenwood, Town Manager Kim Sparks told the selectmen that fireworks are being set off “all hours and any day of the week. It used to be that you’d hear them on Friday and Saturday, and people were OK with that.”

And it’s not only people who are affected by the noise, she said.

On those nights, Sparks said, one resident “would put her horse in the barn, because she knew they were going to go off, but now she never knows.”

Selectman Amy Chapman noted that dogs and cats are sensitive to such noise.

“Pets have been known to run away, miles away, if they get spooked by them,” he said.


The lack of enforcement for the fireworks laws is also a frustration for town officials.

“We’ve been told the Sheriff’s Department won’t enforce anything unless we have a town ordinance,” Selectman Arnie Jordan.

Curtis noted there was already the state’s law prohibiting their use after 10 p.m.

“So why can’t the Sheriff’s Department enforce that?” Jordan asked.

“Probably they’re too darn busy,” Sparks said.

And it’s not just the curfew that’s not being enforced, Curtis said. “The laws also requires that they be used only on your private property.” On rental properties, including summer rentals, “you’ve got to have written landowner permission to set them off.”

And there are setback requirements for the use of fireworks, he said, based on diameter of the firecracker tube. “So if you’ve got the 3-inch mortars they’re selling, you’ve got to have 210 feet. The only guy allowed in that area is the guy who’s setting them off. But you know as well as I do that they're shooting them off on their back lawns, in their driveways, the back of their pickups.

“By law the state cops and county cops can go in and confiscate any [fireworks] that are on the property,” he said. “Are they doing it? No. They’re too busy with the drunk drivers and speeders to worry about noise complaints.”

Firecracker stores are also required to post these laws, he said, “But the stores aren’t displaying the laws like they are supposed to do.”

Curtis said he and Woodstock Fire Chief Goeff Inman have been talking about the problem with the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

“We’re going to set up a thing with NOMA, Norther Oxford County Mutual Aid, and plan a conference, to include media, on the safety aspects of it, and the laws,” he said.

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

I hope this won't be the ongoing headline for the summer

I totally agree that the irresponsible use of fireworks is a problem to humans and animals alike. The fireworks laws have been abused for as long as I can remember. I have seen "roman candles" going off between two apartment buildings less than ten feet apart. Fire crackers and cherry bombs going off everywhere. This all occurred when fireworks were only available legally in New Hampshire.
Somehow, somewhere, a politician decided that bringing the source of the problem one hundred miles closer to home. Making them as easy to buy as the morning paper. Would somehow make everyone law abiding, considerate citizens.
I used to deliver to a warehouse in New Hampshire, right next to a large vacant lot. It was only vacant for part of the year, the rest of the time it was set up with tents trailers, and anything that could be used to sell fireworks. They sold to anyone who had the money. Very few vehicles had New Hampshire license plates. Most were Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut. I got a kick out of the "under cover" state police cars from Maine. If they stuck out any more, they would have glowed. No one cared.
Now we can buy them anywhere. The abuse is going to continue. Its going to be a lot worse than it was before. Bans won't work, law enforcement might catch a few, it's time to face the truth. We need to put up with the results of decisions made in Augusta.

Mark Elliott's picture

actually the bill idea was

actually the bill idea was brought forth by a Maine citizen. It was only sponsored by a "politician" and if you remember correctly was voted on by many Maine citizens.....guess you should have voted that day huh??

FRANK EARLEY's picture

No, didn't need to vote on that one...

As I've said before, I don't give a rats a#$ if their legal or not, or whether people use them or not. Sure, I have medical problems that require sleeping medications at night, and I still get woken up late at night from time to time. I don't care, I do however feel bad for the elderly folks who get startled awake at night. Unless you've ever had horses or cows, you wouldn't understand that special exhilaration you get at two in the morning when the police officer tells you your animal is running down the middle of the street, two miles from home.
These things have been happening for years, making them legal just increases the number of laws abused. The only thing I take exception to is the total disregard of my rights. Like I said, I occasionally get woken up at night, and like I said, it doesn't really bother me. However, I live in Auburn. I may not know all the laws, but fireworks at midnight means one thing to me. Someones breaking the law. In my book, that is pure inappropriate behavior. I would never deny anyone their right to legally use fireworks. It's only when its done illegally that I have issues. I guess that part wasn't on the ballot.

Mark Elliott's picture

Classic quote of the day!:

Classic quote of the day!: "making them legal just increases the number of laws abused" <----figure that one out! Those that disrespect you will disrespect you, fireworks or not. The new law does have specifics in it concerning hours and places they can be used..........

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Lets figure this one out.....

First of all, I have lived in this same location for ten or eleven years. About eight years ago, I did have one instance of disrespect, It was dealt with. Other than that I have been quite happy.
I'm sorry, people who use fireworks after midnight, are breaking a " specific". I'll sleep better knowing that. These people aren't sitting in my back yard, they disturb anyone within hearing distance. Anyone breaking the "specifics" of the law are being disrespectful to the whole community. Just a little side note: These "specific" breakers, are the very people who will eventually get the law reversed. Enjoy the fireworks while you can, but when you can't enjoy them anymore, you'll know who to blame.

Mark Elliott's picture

"you'll know who to

"you'll know who to blame."....yes, the folks that used them incorrectly, the folks that witnessed it (or heard it) and did not report the crime, and law enforcement for not investigating the complaints from the few folks that did report the crime they witnessed.

Mark Elliott's picture

The public as whole just

The public as whole just needs to be better informed.....this happens all the time with new laws. It just takes a little time for the details to become known....

 's picture

Never happen.

It's a bad law.

Mark Elliott's picture

It was a worse law.....any

It was a worse law.....any law that takes away any freedom we have is a bad law. What you're seeing, or hearing, now is a lack of respect and/or common sense from your neighbors........that's not my fault, don't punish me with legislation that is meant to punish them. You can't legislate common sense......

 's picture

So you should be allowed... do what ever you want when ever you want to do it because if you can't, they're taken away your freedom.

Mark Elliott's picture

That's what "freedom" is

That's what "freedom" is Bob!....HOWEVER, as long as that freedom doesn't impede on the freedoms of others. Making noise at all hours of the night impedes YOUR freedom and that is where noise ordinances come in to play. Many people use fireworks respectfully and within the law. Banning fireworks again only serves to punish those that use them legally......those that use them illegally now won't give a hoot if they are illegal or not and those that disrespect your piece and quiet will disrespect your piece and quiet anyways, fireworks or not.........

 's picture

You write...

...compelling arguments. However, I'm old enough to remember when fireworks were legal, before the law outlawing them was passed. It was passed because too many people, principally children, were losing too many fingers and losing eyesight. When people are disfigured because of a questionable law, and they will be this weekend, it's a bad law. When good people are arrested because of a questionable law, and they will be this weekend, it's a bad law. This is a bad law, passed under the guise of freedom of expression. But I guess folks have the freedom to blow off body parts, as long as it's their own. Unfortunately, often it's someone else's. I can remember reading in this newspaper sixty or more years ago about parent's remorse for disfiguring their own children. And I suppose people have the freedom to choose to blind themselves. I just think it's really not necessary. It's a bad law.

 's picture

I thin you've given...

...all those folks caught for speeding an excellent excuse to give the Trooper.

Mark Elliott's picture

two different situations.....

two different situations.....


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