AUGUSTA, Maine — Richard Taylor stepped outside of his Augusta-area home at midnight on New Year’s Eve, casting an ear for any private fireworks celebrations.

A law passed last year made the sale, possession and use of fireworks legal in Maine, at least in communities that haven’t banned them. The law went into effect Jan. 1. Critics have been concerned that nights like New Year’s Eve and July 4 would be loud and dangerous.

Taylor, research and planning analyst for the state fire marshal’s office, heard nothing on New Year’s Eve. Not a bang, pop or boom.

More importantly, there have been no reports of any fireworks-related injuries, said Taylor.

“I’m happy to say I’ve heard nothing of the sort,” said Taylor. “There have been no incidents reported.”

At least one fireworks company operating across the border in New Hampshire reached out to Mainers, urging them to take advantage of their new-found pyrotechnic freedom. Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks is a national chain with 54 stores nationwide, including one in Seabrook, N.H.

Phantom featured a message on its website sporting an outline of the state of Maine with a clock set to midnight, fireworks in the background, and the message “Maine Residents: Shoot Fireworks Legally at Midnight on New Year’s Eve.” In addition, a tweet sent out by Phantom’s @fireworks Twitter account on Jan. 1 read, “MAINERS: You’re now legal to enjoy consumer fireworks! Check out our NH locations.”

“There’s certainly a value to us in educating the Mainers that the law has changed,” said Dan Peart, director of showroom operations for Phantom.

Peart said December was a good month for sales across Phantom’s locations, and he has gotten similar reports from other dealers, including some in New Hampshire. But they hadn’t diced the sales to see if Maine’s new law allowing some fireworks had an effect on sales.

“We haven’t had time to sort whether or not the business strictly coming from Maine residents has had an impact,” said Peart.

Likewise, Stephen Pelkey, CEO of Atlas Fireworks in Jaffrey, N.H., said December sales were up about 12 percent more than 2010, “however, we don’t really track where they’re from — I really don’t know if there were more Mainers.”

Atlas doesn’t have a border location, but has stores in the New Hampshire towns of Rindge, Newport, Londonderry, Belmont and Amherst.

Both Peart and Pelkey said their companies are pursuing stores in Maine.
Peart said Phantom is looking at one, possibly two stores here, though he declined to name specific locations.

“We fully intend to be in Maine with the 2012 fireworks season,” he said.

Pelkey said Atlas is looking at three different locations in Maine, away from the New Hampshire border. He wouldn’t discuss specific locations, but did say that a few communities have invited Atlas to provide more information about what a store would look like.

“For right now, it’s a bit wait-and-see,” said Pelkey.

Pelkey said that while the law was changed last year, there’s still a number of specific criteria and regulations that have to be spelled out by state agencies.

“In order for anything to happen this season, there would have to be some solid rule-making, and those communities willing to take a stab at it would need to have all that in place, I would say by mid-March, in order to be effectively open by Memorial Day weekend,” said Pelkey. “It at least is moving favorably forward. Like anything that’s new and a bit of a change, it takes an adjustment period.”

He noted that many communities in Maine have decided not to allow the sale or use of fireworks — mirroring the actions of many New Hampshire communities 25 years ago.

The state fire marshal’s office maintains a list of communities that have taken some sort of action regarding fireworks — from allowing them with permits to moratoriums to outright bans — and they include communities such as Bangor, South Portland, Freeport, Ellsworth and others. The list may not be comprehensive; it doesn’t include Portland or Augusta, for example, both of which banned fireworks.

38 replies on “Maine era of fireworks starts without a bang”

  1. I for one would much rather buy from a Maine bussiness. But from what I have heard none have been given a chance to open, due to the state not having rules in place yet for those businesses. So the longer they drag their feet the longer Maine dollarers go out of state!!! Once again this state is making it hard to open a new bussiness. No big shock there.

  2. I have read the rules and regulations and fees on the books so far, and you would have to be crazy to attempt to open a store in Maine. The law  gave us nothing. It’s hard to decipher what products are legal with still heavy fines for those still ban . Which I think includes bottle rockets of any size. Its amazing that the state believes us to stupid to use fireworks properly. 

    1. I think you will find the Maine law is very similar to the fireworks law of our neighbor New Hampshire. At least it was when I compared them.

      1. Not as far as what you can touch off. NH has mortars (the best firework there is) and roman candles.

        1. I may be mistaken (shocking, I know) – but didn’t NH just recently get the OK to sell mortars? And while I certainly appreciate the comments regarding how difficult it will be to open one of these stores, I believe the state is mostly modeling its rules on what exists in other states. And there’s obviously interest from at least 2 chains, if not more. It will be more challenging, of course, for an independent who is not experienced in the retail end of the pyro field to open a store. But the same can be said – to varying degrees – of retail establishments  of other types.

    2. I grew up in Caribou, and have lived in Oklahoma ever since I graduated from high school. Every year in the State of Oklahoma several houses are burnt to the ground due to fireworks. The number one culprit of those, are pop bottle rockets.  People don’t pay attention to what they are doing, they launch the bottle rockets, they explode, burn out, and fall on someones roof.  Presto you have a fire, normally a serious fire because it goes unnoticed until the structure is is well involved.  Personally I’d put a ban of them here, and never allow them to be legalized in any state that has been smart enough to keep them out until now.

      1. Where I live they are legal as well, there is very little if any major issues with fireworks.  The biggest culprit for fires and injury last year were sparklers.

      2. I would like to have some links to local news stories about these types of fires in Oaklahoma……I am aware of many fires that originate in grassy areas from fireworks thus spreading to buildings, but the scenario you describe seems to be one that IMHO would be rare in occurence….found thus far only one report of such a fire in your state in Firehouse Magazine……

      3. Maybe they weren’t “pop bottle rockets” Some have been know to use beer bottles and believe they need a new bottle for each rocket.

  3. Maybe people just don’t have the extra MONEY for fireworks during these hard times. And them that do have the extra money, the 1%, I am sure they are not even in Maine on New Years Day, they are safely tucked away in their gated communities with armed guards and alarm systems, partying the night away with fellow “let them eat cake” type people. It’s beginning to sound more and more like the USA needs a French Revolution type of solution to the !%re’s.

    1. The father of one of my good friends happens to own a firework’s store in South Carolina and through conversation with him you couldn’t be any further off.  It is the lower class and middle class citizens who buy the most fireworks by far.  With that being said, he did state that those lower and middle class citizens come in and by $30-100 worth of fireworks and go have fun with their friends and family while the business owner/wealthy guy comes in and buys $500 worth trying to put on their own show.  

  4. Us good folks in Belfast are not to be trusted with fireworks, the City Council said this is so. So it must be so, besides we may scare the tourists. We all know that scared tourists will not buy overpriced nick nacks and art.

    1. I’m glad that Bangor banned them.  I’m not particularly afraid of the red-necks who are most likely to be shooting them off all the time, I’d just rather not listen to them make noise.  They can go out in the sticks and play with these toys.

  5. Of course it started with a whimper as opposed to a bang…

    1) As soon as the state made them legal, just about every city or town with a population over 5,000 (not named Brewer), made them illegal.
    2) It’s pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to open a business selling fireworks in this state since the state made the rules (the ones it has actually made) about as Byzantine as possible.
    3) Not too many people are setting off fireworks in Maine on January 1. Tends to be a warmer weather thing…usually involving a lake.

  6. More of a food for thought thing.  If you were to touch off some fireworks at 12:0o am on the New Year, wouldn’t you get some possible questions from local police?  How would someone in Augusta get fireworks into the state legally by 12:01 am?  If you were to let off fireworks of at 12:00am wouldn’t you have had to have brought them to the state illegally?  So does the fireworks law mirror NH’s law?  Everything goes minus bottle rockets and 1/4 sticks of dynamite?

    1. Just found a write up that I guess answered my questions.  No mortars really?  Then this is far different from NH.  I can attest, mortars make up 2/3rds of what is on the shelves in NH.  And if I am reading this correctly, the only thing you can basically have in Maine are firecrackers and ground fountains………boooooooooooring.  What a waste of time for the Maine’s politicians.  Maybe I am just reading the article wrong.

  7. What’s the big deal?    It’s going to be a seasonal business,  ask anyone from one of the state’s that has never banned them.    It’s not like rockets, and fireworks, tiny bombs or a small nuclear device is going to go off in your front yard.

    1. Actually I think it will be more popular than you think.  WLBZ & WGME  had the gentleman from Central Maine Pyrotechnics that does the muncipal fireworks shows on.  He had more than 100 calls about people wanting to buy fireworks.  WLBZ and WGME said he plans to open 6 stores in central and northern maine under the name Pyrocity with the first store now set to open in Manchester.  He mentions the red tape and stalling coming from the Liberal fire marshalls office (fire marshall a hold over from the Baldacci administration).  He has more than 1 million dollars worth of product in storage ready to start sales in Manchester with more on it’s way.

      1. So if there is a fire do the {Liberal} Firemen come along with the {Liberal} Police

        Thats quite a world you live in Darkcat!

        P.S. Do these Fireworks Make a Conservative BANG???

  8. Its ridiculous….. When we can be grown up like N.H. then the law will make sense. Until then its a useless law. What else is new. Give us mortars and roman candles or give us nothing. Everything else just serves to scare the local dogs to death…..

    1. Was that you?

        I remember (Vaguely) going to a 4 th of July Party in 1979 where people where shooting Bottle Rockets at the Local Police cars as they cruised by, the State Police where called for back up and someone threw a 1/4 stick “into” the cruiser!
      I can fully understand the need for some control of Fireworks

  9. It would be helpful if the BDN or Fire Marshall would print a list of what fireworks are legal and which ones are not. It is as clear as mud right now.

  10. Until the state was out of money many people objected to fireworks and gambling, now we’re desperate.We don’t want to listen to our neighbors mowing their lawns on Sunday, much less setting off explosions at 10 P.M.  Poisonous snakes and alligators attract tourist money in Florida, perhaps we could breed some that could stand the cold waters of Mooshead Lake. Of course there was no “Bang” yet. There are no reatail stores yet and it’s winter. Wait till the 4th of July when a little 3rd grader blows three fingers off at Grampy’s camp. You’ll hear some “noise” then.

    1. Why don’t we live in a park like the Liberals want us to live in.  Your not going to stop noise and stop people from being free and living their lives.  Mainers have been using fireworks all along why not get the revenue that is going to New Hampshire .  While also creating new businesses , new jobs and new tax revenue from them.  Mainers want to have the same rights as folks everywhere in this country.  We don’t want to have our hands held by those in Augusta.

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