Fireworks for our peace, health, safety

Among the more seriously misguided bills coming before the Maine Legislature this session is another attempt to legalize the sale, possession and use of fireworks.

At least no one can say the bill's author doesn't have a sense of humor.

The first sentence  advises that it must be passed as an "emergency" so sellers can be up and running for the 2011 Fourth of July fireworks-selling season.

Wait, there's more.

This creates an emergency "within the meaning of the Constitution of Maine," and is "immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety..."

Sure. Just like cigarettes, Jack Daniel's and a cheap handgun. All part of making Maine a safer, healthier and more peaceful place to be.

The bill caused a stir early last week when Gov. Paul LePage's administration prohibited one of its most vocal opponents, the state's fire marshal, from testifying against it.

"In his role as fire marshal, (John Dean) has offered testimony on similar bills in the past," a LePage administration adviser told the Bangor Daily News. "And I don't think it would be fair to him to ask him to express an opinion contrary — well, not exactly contrary — to what he has said in the past."

Yeah, who wants to hear from a kill-joy like the state's expert on explosives and fire safety?

Rep. Douglas Damon, R-Bangor, sponsor of the bill, said so many people are already using consumer-type fireworks that the state might as well just make them legal and tax them.

Yes, and so many Mainers are using marijuana that we might as well legalize and tax that, too.

"Fireworks are here," Damon said, "whether we like them or not. We have the fireworks, but we don't have the safety training for handling them. That has to change."

Safety training?

That's right. The tax money would pay for a pamphlet to be given to buyers on the safe use of fireworks. Other discussion involves requiring fire departments to teach fireworks training classes.

And that's not something firefighters are eager to do. Bill Vickerson of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters said his group was astonished by the bill.

"It is kind of hard for any of us to think that anyone thought this is a good idea," he was quoted by the Bangor Daily News as saying.

The Maine Medical Association agrees.

While the LePage administration barred the fire marshal from speaking, it had not yet scrubbed the department's website of anti-fireworks information.

It reports that 8,500 Americans were injured by fireworks in 1998; 8,800 were injured in 2009.

Most injuries involved burns to hands, eyes, heads and faces, including a 7-year-old who lost half his hand when a firecracker exploded inadvertently.

The bill would supposedly limit fireworks use and sales to those 21 and older. The fire marshal's site says, however, that 40 percent of fireworks victims are under 15 years of age.

The bill is popular with the LePage administration because it would  generate jobs. Yes, perhaps 50 seasonal jobs selling fireworks from roadside shacks.

And a few more for firefighters, ambulance personnel, ophthalmologists and plastic surgeons.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board

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 's picture

Mr. Theriault is Right...

Passing this as an 'emergency' is foolish and an abuse of the process.
However, touting injuries of children is a direct reflection of irresponsible parenting, not the danger of fireworks. More children get injured in bicycle accidents than firework accidents. More children get injured in contact sports than firework accidents.
"It reports that 8,500 Americans were injured by fireworks in 1998; 8,800 were injured in 2009." Only 300 more in 11 years? That's not a big increase. Those numbers are incredibly low, too. Out of 300 million, less than 10k were hurt? It doesn't look so severe when you quote it as a statistic rather than a big number to a small state. Factually, it's not as unsafe as people are making it out to be. The outcry of people claiming children will get injured only demonstrates that everyone is convinced our state is filled with completely ignorant morons. Though I won't be quick to argue against that, I'm in support of passing the permission of fireworks in Maine.
We are a vacation state (check out your license plate) and need to invest in anything that promotes fun and attracts vacationers. Maine needs to learn to look at the big picture. You want jobs? Cater to the only industry we have left.

Jim Cyr's picture

Who needs Fireworks

You mean there are some States where the Constitution is "Null and Void". Here you guys go again with the "Nanny State". Is there a vast problem in those States where Fireworks are allowed to be operated with certain restrictions? Good point Jason!

Jason Theriault's picture

I disagree

Ok, as I see it, there is two issues here –
1. Should the state be using emergency rules to pass fireworks law.
2. Should fireworks be illegal

On the first point, I agree with all of you. This is not an emergency, and using emergency measures to pass the law swiftly is an abuse.

I disagree with most of you on the second point, and here is why: Fireworks are as dangerous as alcohol, firearms and even gasoline when used INCORRECTLY. Heck, a fork is fatal if used incorrectly. The CDC estimated in 2000 there was 75,000 gun injuries/deaths. NHTSB estimates that 10,000 will die in alcohol related accidents.

Fireworks are no more dangerous than those things, and examples of children getting hurt are nothing more than emotional appeals. No one thinks children should be using fireworks unsupervised, hence making the age limit 21+. A seven year old blowing his hand off is sad, but it’s an example of bad parenting. Would you consider banning alcohol if that 7 year old had gotten alcohol poisoning and died?

RONALD RIML's picture

Who needs Fireworks???

Isn't Maine a "Right to Carry" State????

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Now, you're talkin', V....

Now, you're talkin', V....


How About...?

LePage and his rubber stamps pack up and head for Juneau. They could put in half a term, get ghost writers and go on a book tour to rake in some real bucks. Oh yeah, the crew from Maine Heritage too. They could set up shop in Wasilla.

DAVE GUDAS's picture

Agree with editorial

Loved the part about why this legislation constitutes an "emergency"!
I also heard recently on the radio that that if this legislation were enacted and fireworks legalized, that the State of Maine would take in app. $500K to $800K annually in revenue through taxation and licensing. That's essentially the benefit.
What will the cost for medical visits, surgery, and rehabilition for the inevitable injuries received from this big revenue generator? I would think but one finger or hand blown off could negate the State's entire revenue intake for the year. Chances are good that many a victim will be a Maine Care participant.
So as the money from this rolls in the Capitol's front door, we'll need to hire a person to run it right down the hall to the Maine Care office.

Roger Wheeler's picture


I work with young teenage boys. Also, being one myself once, I can tell you that legal fireworks are a bad idea. What type of fireworks are to be legalized; M-80's, Cherry Bombs ? Have you ever seen an eyeball blown out or half a thumb just hanging by the skin. This damage is for life.
It may be illegal for anyone under 21 to buy them but we know how successful that is with other substances.

 's picture

I'm not sure if you're aware

I'm not sure if you're aware of this fact or not but the Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC successfully lobbied the Federal Government to outlaw M-80's, Cherry Bombs, etc. in the 1970's. Also Firecrackers that are sold legally must not have more than 50mg of powder and for all other types of legal fireworks fuses must burn for at least 3 seconds, but no longer than 9 seconds.

Due to these new laws people are less likely to lose fingers or have their "eyeballs blown out" In fact if you look at the statistics you will find that since these laws were adopted injury rates have decreased.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Seen a couple of cherry bombs

Seen a couple of cherry bombs shatter a glass oil jug quite handily.


I must agree with the

I must agree with the previous writer who said "we have too many Legislators in Augusta with too much time on their hands". Maine could have less Legislators and shorten the sessions. As it is they come up with too many bills and it never fails that the important ones are put off till the last minute and its a mad rush too pass them through then without proper scrutiny. As far as fireworks are concerned there is a problem with them being imported from out of State. Anyone who lives in an area populated by "summer" residents is well aware of this. Perhaps legalizing the sale of the product along with edducational material would not be a bad idea. It is worth consideration. As far as the comment on marijuana etc. in the editorial, maybe Mr.Rhoads should review his history books on the prohibition era. There is a lot of similarity between the revenuers smashing stills and the DEA pulling up weeds. Ditto for the gangsters of the era and the druglords of today. People apparently want their drugs of choice now as they did then and it should be looked at with a fresh view to see if it is possible to stop this or if the best we can do is regulate the sale of the drugs of choice.

 's picture

50 jobs?

So, if we can generate 50 jobs by allowing the sale of fireworks, why don't we go bigger and allow the sale of dynamite? 100 jobs? 1000?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Imagine how many jobs

Imagine how many jobs legalizing ICBMs will create.

Greg Rose's picture

Legalizing Fireworks in Maine?

Given that Governor Lepage would not allow Fire Marshal John Dean to testify at the legislative hearing about the possible legalization of certain types of fireworks, AND that he has appointed a former health care lobbyist as the director of DHHS, perhaps, given this "fox in the hen house" policy of executive appointments, Lepage should investigate removing Fire Marshal Dean from his position and replacing him with the President of a Chinese fireworks factory.
A point was made recently in another news article that Maine's rate of fireworks injuries is relatively low. Isn't that a GOOD thing? Why would the government want to move us BACKWARDS??? Since there are only a small number of people hurt every year in Maine by fireworks, we can afford to hurt some more if it will generate taxes and maybe a job or two. Seriously Governor? Where are your priorities?

 's picture

No Support from this Corner

Sorry, but this is not what I want to see the "LePage Administration" focusing on. Let's get to work on substantive fiscal issues, like putting the layabouts to work, instead of introducing "peesh pow pow's" into our communities.

If you want to see fireworks, go down on the bridge on July 4th and enjoy the free show. Guarantee that the sights you will see in the crowd will be well worth the trip.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Augusta as usual

A bill to make whoopie pies the State desert, a bill to repeal the seat belt law and now this idiotic bill. We have too many law makers with too much time on their hands and THIS is what Lepage should be trying to fix.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Give him time, sweetfern. Le

Give him time, sweetfern. Le Page will get it done. Plenty of lefties will hate him, but he'll get it done. Will we better off for it? Who knows? Sure can't be much worse than it is now. We don't have enough wackjobs in Maine so now they want to give them the right to fireworks too?


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