Sunday, May 19, 2013
Fireworks complaints have dropped dramatically in central Maine since the Fourth of July, and so have fireworks sales.
Augusta police responded to 72 fireworks complaints from May 1 to July 7, an average of slightly more than one call per day.
From July 7 through Friday, the department responded to eight calls, or about one call every two days.
Augusta police Lt. Christopher Massey said officers responded to 15 complaints on the Fourth of July alone, which is up from about five last year. Augusta police have noticed an uptick in complaints on long holiday weekends, he said.
"They seem to come and go in spurts," Massey said.
Massey said there has been a noticeable drop-off in complaints since the Fourth.
At least some of those responsible for setting off the fireworks, according to Massey, are visitors unaware of the city's ordinance, which allows fireworks possession but prohibits their discharge. City officials have tried to publicize the ordinance, including the use of a message board in the traffic circles.
"We tried to do everything we can to educate people," Massey said.
Between Memorial Day and Independence Day, police in Waterville answered 116 calls about fireworks -- including 16 calls on July 4, according to police dispatch logs. From July 5 onward, however, police responded to fewer that 20 calls.
During the same time periods, Winslow Police responded to 76 calls and six calls, respectively.
Steve Marson, owner of consumer fireworks chain Pyro City Maine, said sales at his five stores have slowed since the Fourth but haven't come to a standstill.
"People aren't knocking down the door like they were, but we have customers coming every day to our stores, and usually business picks up quite a bit on Thursday, Friday and Saturday," he said.
Marson added that customers are also buying less than the days immediately before the Fourth of July.
"People were spending a couple hundred dollars to put on their own little show. People are now buying anywhere between $25 and $100 to do something special for their weekend," he said.
Marson anticipates his stores -- which are in Edgecomb, Ellsworth, Manchester, Presque Isle and Winslow -- will remain open throughout the year, despite reduced sales.
"I believe, based upon the spending habits of people today, all five of my stores will remain open year-round," he said. "We're pleased with the way the business has continued since the Fourth."
Marson predicted that in addition to Memorial Day and Fourth of July, fireworks use will increase during Labor Day weekend, New Year's Eve and other holidays.
"I think there's a half a dozen holidays a year when people are going to buy fireworks more than they normally would," he said.
Fireworks were legalized in Maine on Jan. 1 after a decades-old ban. Municipalities can ban the use and sale of fireworks, according to the law.
In the days leading up to the Fourth of July, police from Waterville and Winslow struggled to keep up with the calls, and officials devised strategies to deal with it.
In Waterville, city councilors voted unanimously to ban fireworks use. That rule took effect June 18.
In Winslow, town councilors formed a committee to look into the issue, which presented its findings at a July 9 meeting. The committee proposed restricting fireworks use to 12 annual holidays and to properties greater than 1 acre. No vote was taken.
Marson acknowledged that consumer fireworks kept police busy initially but predicts that as Mainers grow accustomed to fireworks, there will be fewer complaints, even during peak holidays.
Meantime, fireworks users should communicate with their neighbors, Marson said.
"Let your neighbor know what you're doing so it's not a surprise to them," he said. "People should have the responsibility to let their neighbors know what's going on."
Staff writer Craig Crosby contributed to this report.