L. Pelletier: Fireworks are explosives

The word "fireworks" is deceiving and, at best, misleading. The majority of them should be classified as explosives and treated as such — with the greatest respect.

The 125th Maine Legislature enacted Public Law Chapter 416 — An Act to Legalize the Sale, Possession and Use of Fireworks (or explosives). Did the Legislature open a Pandora's box?

Thirty-seven communities in Maine, including Auburn, have voted to keep the ban on use of fireworks intact, yet I hear the explosions in our city nearly every day.

New pyrotechnic stores are opening all around us, advertising their newest and best assortment of fireworks, such as one called "Wake the Neighbors."

Just because Gov. Paul LePage wants the tax revenues that the sale of fireworks is bringing, must the public's safety be put at risk?

City officials may want to rethink the actions of the last council and rehire its fire prevention officer. And with the recent fires and personal injuries caused since LD 83, perhaps elected officials should revisit the wisdom of banning fireworks again.

Larry Pelletier, Auburn

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Joe Gray's picture

Auburn has a Fire Prevention Officer

1.) Auburn has banned fireworks. How is a fire prevention officer supposed to stop citizens from participating in an illegal activity?

2.) The city council did not fire the last fire prevention officer. The city council does not have the power to fire anyone except the city manager. The last city manager decided against hiring a new fire prevention officer after Deputy Chief Minkowski left Auburn. I believe it was a cost cutting measure of the city manager.

3.) Currently Auburn DOES have a fire prevention officer. (I can't remember his name but it is something like McConnell or Connelly or something like that.) He has been in position for a few months I believe.

The reason the last council banned fireworks was because Chief Low stated fireworks are unsafe with our old housing stock in the built up area of Auburn. He didn't have a problem with having fireworks in the more rural areas of Auburn. The council voted to ban fireworks in all of Auburn to protect our built up areas and to keep from making two classes of citizens, those who can use fireworks and those who can't.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“Thirty-seven communities in

“Thirty-seven communities in Maine, including Auburn, have voted to keep the ban on use of fireworks intact, yet I hear the explosions in our city nearly every day.”

This is because these 37 communities are a gaggle of idiots thinking people in these communities will not travel to neighboring communities to buy fireworks.

There are simply not enough local resources to police this activity were banned.

This is just another example of our politicians thinking with emotion vs. logic.

Like it or not, it is state law. Why waste local resources to prohibit fireworks in some cities?

Joe Gray's picture

This is a cost shift

You are mistaken if you believe the Auburn council banned fireworks on emotion and not logic. The council was presented with facts, weighed them and came up with a reasoned decision to ban fireworks within the city limits of Auburn. It was presented to the council by the police chief that enforcement would be a problem. It was also presented to council that the possibility of fire and potential loss of life was a real concern of the fire chief and department. So the council reasoned loss of life was more urgent than enforcement.

Many neighboring communities don't have the old, closely built up areas that Auburn has within it's borders. So it is perfectly logical for those communities to not ban fireworks.

The state law was enacted to help the state, not the citizens. This could prove very costly for communities in terms of both enforcement of bans or loss from fire or injury. The state now doesn't have to cover the costs of enforcement (police and court costs) and gets extra revenue from sales taxes. So, in essence, this is a shift of costs from the state to the municipalities.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

One last point, I much rather

One last point, I much rather have the State generate revenue this way than raise taxes.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

One massive point of failure

One massive point of failure in the City’s logic is not factoring in human behavior. People will make the simple trip to a neighboring city, purchase fireworks, and bring them back to Auburn for use.

This is a bit easier than having to seek fireworks from a neighboring state which was the case prior to Maine’s legalization.

Yes, playing with fireworks has its hazards, but I would wager much less of a hazard statistically than driving to Lewiston and back.

The emotion factors in with speculation of what may happen vs. measuring what does happen.

Now Auburn must apply scare resources to police people who bring fireworks back from neighboring cities. I liken this ordinance to the war on drug – a waste of time and money with little results.

Joe Gray's picture

no failure - lesser of two evils

I guess I don't understand why you say the Auburn council had a "massive point of failure" in logic. As I stated, the council knew going in that enforcement was going to be a problem. They knew it would tax the police resources of the city. It was not a failure in logic at all.

The decision was to pick the lesser of two evils. Potentially saving millions in loss of property or the loss of life is far less bearable than the costs/hassles of enforcement.

I'm also unsure why you are not condemning the citizens who are committing a crime. Granted it is a somewhat low level crime, but nonetheless a crime. Some think providing alcohol to underage people is okay as well. Is it okay for an adult to do so? I mean, the adult doesn't even have to go to Lewiston to get the alcohol.

The decision to ban was difficult for the council. It was vigorously debated. Everyone involved saw it both ways. In the end it was decided to ban in order to try to protect our built up areas and the people who live there.

Unlike the drug war comparison, Auburn police are not spending vast amounts of time or money to hunt down people who light off a few firecrackers. They are able to use the ordinance if they need it.

And lastly, adding fireworks sales to collect sales tax is, in fact, a tax. This is in addition to the shifting of costs of prosecution of fireworks related to the cities and towns of Maine.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Here are some facts and

Here are some facts and figures about common causes of house fires:

Facts & figures
• Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in these fires.
• Two-thirds (66%) of home cooking fire started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.
• Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of these fires, but these incidents accounted 14% of the cooking fire deaths.
• Ranges accounted for the largest share (58%) of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16%.
• Three of every five (58%) reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.
• Frying poses the greatest risk of fire.
• Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.

Nope, I don’t see fireworks anywhere on the list. Again, we should make law based on facts, not fear or speculation.

Joe Gray's picture

Thanks for the info

Great list of facts and figures - entirely about cooking fires. It is no wonder you didn't see anything about fireworks fires there.

But I am not debating this issue with you. I simply stated the reasons the Auburn City Council voted to ban fireworks in their city. It was on the advice of staff - in this case the fire chief. It is that simple. There was debate and liberty vs safety was weighed and found that erring on the side of caution was a better idea.

Whether Auburn chooses to ban fireworks or handle all calls for disrespectful fireworks users under other nuisance ordinances is immaterial. If a citizen is causing a disturbance for any issue, there is a way of dealing with it legally. The chief of police stated we are able to handle disturbances with existing ordinances but a ban would provide a certain legal backing to any enforcement efforts.

There are many laws across the land that are habitually flaunted and ignored. Not everyone wears seatbelts. Hardly anyone obeys the speed limit. But the laws are there.

No fear or speculation used on this decision. The fire chief enumerated a great list of problems with fireworks and their use and/or misuse. It turned out to be a persuasive argument.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

If the premise of your

If the premise of your argument is to protect properly from fire damage that might be caused due to fireworks, there are many more everyday reasons fires start other than fireworks, number one cause is cooking, number two is smoking, number three is heating, number four is electrical, number five I cannot recall at this time, but it is not fireworks. I could not find fireworks in the top five or top ten.

If the city truly has protecting people and property at the forefront, then they would address issues that, if resolved, provided the biggest bang for the buck.

Perhaps the city held up a strawman argument to justify the ordinance before the people.
I’m sure the fire chief can enumerate a number of scenarios that “might happen”.

Heck, the fire chief in my town speculated that the latches on gas nozzle “could” cause gas to spill on someone creating a hazard. Yes that could happen, but how many times has it actually happened? We’ll all the latches had to be removed.

Life is full of hazards. Any law that cannot be backed up with statistical data is simply based on speculation.

Perhaps someone should question the fire chief to back up his data with facts.

Joe Gray's picture

not germaine to the original letter

The whole discussion was started due to a fireworks ordinance. Now you've driven the discussion straight off that track and onto fires in general. The original vote had nothing to do with fire prevention techniques other than as that relates to fireworks. The proposed ordinance under discussion was one about fireworks.

The city council's decision was based on statistics the fire chief provided at the time of the council meeting. There was no anecdotal evidence if I recall correctly.

It is so easy to degrade these discussions into simple bickering. I was pointing out to Mr Pelletier that Auburn does have a Fire Prevention Officer and he will do little to help with enforcement of Auburn's fireworks ban. I tried to answer your issues with these bans. I tried to explain about the reasoning the council went through in coming to the decision they did. Other than that, I can't help you with your continued desire to create conflict. We have other laws in effect to limit our fire exposure and our criminal activities. If you'd like to debate those laws, we could possibly do that another time. This particular thread was meant to discuss Auburn's fireworks ban and perhaps the new law allowing fireworks in the state in general - as brought forth by the initial letter to the editor.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So that means we need to

So that means we need to ignore the facts presented showing the intent of the ordinance is a strawman argument?
“…presented to the council that the possibility of fire and potential loss of life.”

Facts, such as actual statistics about causes of fires, just muddy the water don’t they?

That said, you are right in that many laws are created on possibilities of something happening; hence, the birth of a nanny state.

I still stand by my original assertion, that this law was passed on emotion and speculation (not facts, but possibilities ), it will divert law enforcement resources from addressing more important issues, and people will ignore the law for the most part.

I fully comprehend your explanation as to the council’s reasoning, but I assert this reasoning is flawed reasoning and void of supporting data. If that is conflict in your opinion, so be it!

Zack Lenhert's picture

"So that means we need to

"So that means we need to ignore the facts presented showing the intent of the ordinance is a strawman argument?"

The GOP does it when proposing voter ID laws. Where is the supporting evidence that voter fraud is happening, not just the possibility of it happening?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

It is not right in either

It is not right in either case.

If anyone (nonpartisan reference) asserts we need a law because of XYZ, then they need prove XYZ is more than just a mere speculation.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So that means we need to

So that means we need to ignore the facts presented showing the intent of the ordinance is a strawman argument?
“…presented to the council that the possibility of fire and potential loss of life.”

Facts, such as actual statistics about causes of fires, just muddy the water don’t they?

That said, you are right in that many laws are created on possibilities of something happening; hence, the birth of a nanny state.

I still stand by my original assertion, that this law was passed on emotion and speculation (not facts, but possibilities ), it will divert law enforcement resources from more addressing more important issues, and people will ignore the law for the most part.

I fully comprehend your explanation as to the council’s reasoning, but I assert this reasoning is flawed reasoning and void of supporting data. If that is conflict in your opinion, so be it!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I spent a brief time living

I spent a brief time living in the south. The county I lived in was a dry county. All adjacent counties were wet counties. County offices thought they were smug and doing something righteous with creating the dry county. The only thing the county ordinance did was make people drive a bit further for their booze.
County offices didn’t understand way people routinely broke the law – go figure? What mistake did this county these county officials make? Perhaps the same mistake Auburn offices made.

Again, your argument is predicated on what might happen – structural damage. Statistics on vehicular deaths are well established. I would rather have law enforcement pulling drunks off the street than responding to a call about bottle rocks being set off. However, Auburn has the right to apply its law enforcement as it sees fit.

I’m not condemning citizens who are committing a crime since because Auburn and like cites have created a patch work of legal and illegal fireworks zones across the state. Too much inconsistency in the law just makes it more difficult for people to remember all the local variances. Remember, anarchy results from too many laws, like this one, not too few. People just laugh at these nanny laws.

As for the tax aspect, I should have said raising state income tax. I can avoid a sales tax by not purchasing an item. I cannot avoid the income tax.

I wish the best of luck to Auburn in its enforcement attempts. Perhaps the truth will surface in years to come as Maine compiles statistics on the effects of legalizing fireworks and the costs due to property damage. Laws should be based on data, not fear or speculation, a novel concept missing in many municipalities.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...