October 11, 2012

Fireworks ban an explosive issue for Fairfield

Town will allow fireworks usage only between July 2 and 6

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD -- The town council decision to ban fireworks for 360 days of the year is not the final word on the matter, fireworks advocates say.

click image to enlarge

The regulation of fireworks is now left to each municipality in Maine, but some consistency would be helpful.

Press Herald file photo

After months of wrangling, the council voted Wednesday to restrict fireworks use to July 2-6.

Resident Jeff Zimba said he plans to present the council with a proposal that would allow fireworks in rural areas of town.

If the council doesn't support the idea, he said, he and other fireworks supporters will seek to elect officials who will.

"The last I knew, they work for us," he said.

A more relaxed version of the ordinance, which would have allowed fireworks use for 19 days of the year, was rejected by the council Sept. 13.

Under the new rules, aerial displays aren't allowed within 100 feet of neighboring structures, while ground displays aren't allowed within 25 feet of neighboring structures.

Proposed amendments to allow fireworks year-round, or to include a three-day period centered around New Year's Day, failed on a split vote of the board Wednesday.

Zimba said that the fireworks ordinance should mirror Fairfield's firearms ordinance, which allows firearms to be discharged in less populated areas of town. Areas that are safe for firearms are also safe for fireworks displays, he said.

Town Manager Josh Reny said that, without the ordinance, police responding to fireworks complaints had limited options.

"There were definitely some neighborhoods this summer where a few people would be setting them off every night or every weekend," Reny said. "There wasn't any recourse. Nothing could be done because it wasn't illegal. At least now, when the police show up, they can enforce something."

Reny said that the practical impact of the ordinance will be negligible on Fairfield's rural residents anyway.

Rather than actively enforcing the measure, police will respond only to complaints. Even in those cases, a person would get a warning rather than a fine for a first offense, Reny said.

"I think people are still going to use fireworks when they want to," he said. "For the person who wants to shoot off fireworks once or twice a year, this won't really affect them. What this does is provide some amount of recourse for individuals that happen to live in an area where they have a neighbor who isn't respectful of their desire to live in peace and quiet."

Zimba rejected the idea that the town will ignore illegal fireworks use that isn't causing a problem.

"What kind of message does that send my kid, that this is illegal but we're going to do it anyway?" he said. "If it's not a problem, then why treat it as though it's a problem and turn a blind eye to it? It's insulting."

Reny said that public interest in the issue has declined since summer, when fireworks were being set off more frequently.

Under a state law that went into effect on Jan. 1, fireworks are legal in Maine but towns can ban or otherwise restrict their use.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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