Rethinking fireworks



Recreational use of fireworks has been legal in Maine for four years now. Fireworks have proliferated to the point that around the Fourth of July, the flash and noise of displays seems to issue from every quarter. And the use is not constrained to the holiday period alone. Camp owners on numerous lakes report near constant fireworks shows all summer long. Almost any occasion, it seems, from Memorial Day to New Year’s Eve, has become an excuse to play with fireworks.

The loud reports of large firecrackers and aerial rockets leave homeowners sleep-delayed, and dogs and other domestic animals cowering in fear.

While many towns have exercised their rights of local control and banned the use of fireworks, unfettered access to fireworks and their prevalence in surrounding communities make futile any real attempt by law enforcement to crack down. This year, even in Bar Harbor and Mount Desert, where fireworks remain illegal, there were many private “displays.” That was over and above the public displays in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor.

Even when fireworks were illegal, there were injuries. That hasn’t changed. Several incidents of burns and lost fingers occurred in Maine this year. In Calais, a man who placed a large mortar tube on his head died when it went off. His family has called for a requirement that those who light fireworks receive formal training. But other factors, such as the consumption of alcohol or a lack of judgment on the part of those involved, rather than inexperience, likely were critical factors in that incident.

Rather than attempting to legislate common sense, it may be time for Mainers to look at the bigger picture. The state may need to re-examine whether the state’s grand experiment with allowing recreational use of fireworks has improved or degraded the quality of life.

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