LEWISTON – Maine is one of seven states that ban all fireworks. Yet few people understand what is and is not legal, fire officials said this week.

In preparation for Fourth of July celebrations, Lewiston fire officials are reminding people that just about everything that explodes, pops or sizzles is prohibited for individual use.

The exceptions are sparklers, morning glories and plastic caps. Possession or use of other fireworks can result in felony convictions with jail time and harsh fines.

In Maine, fireworks are identified as an “explosive or flammable compound or any combustible explosive composition or substance, which was prepared for the purpose of producing a visible or audible effect.”

Examples include standard firecrackers and devices with colorful names such as torpedoes, skyrockets, Roman candles, bombs, wheels, rickets, fountains, mines, serpents, snap-n-pops and other fireworks of similar construction.

Fire investigators say their crackdown on fireworks is done for the simple reason of public safety. Each year, fireworks cause more fires than all other causes combined, fire officials say. In 2001, 9,500 people were treated medically for injuries resulting from fireworks and four people died from their wounds.

According to national statistics, children under 14 suffer 50 percent of the injuries related to fireworks. Fingers, eyes, heads and faces are the most common body parts affected.

In Lewiston, fire prevention officers are working with the State Fire Marshal’s Office to crack down on fireworks. Fire Marshal investigators have issued summonses to five Mainers and one New York resident during the past two weeks, and they plan to continue their efforts as Independence Day approaches.

People who buy fireworks and bring them into Maine face fines of up to $5,000, along with the seizure of the fireworks.

Locally, fire officials offered the following tips:

• Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks. Even a sparkler can be unsafe and cause serious burns.

• Use only legal devices. Check with your local fire prevention bureau or the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office if you are unclear about what is legal.

• Read and follow instructions.

• Be sure everyone is at a safe distance before lighting fireworks.

• Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from buildings, dry leaves and flammable materials.

• Never try to re-light fireworks that did not function on the first attempt.

• Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of a malfunction.

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