What People are Reading
- What a very sad and shocking
2 years 29 weeks ago
- Smart Meters
2 years 32 weeks ago
- 100 year old house burns
2 years 32 weeks ago
- Column 2-10 re Treason
2 years 41 weeks ago
- Radical Difference
2 years 42 weeks ago
- This activity is such a
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Okay Great we got a sign!
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Hate Crime a Sad Moment Indeed
3 years 1 day ago
More in Featured
Slower sales, fewer complaints in second year of legal fireworks
AREA — Last summer, agitated residents from several Oxford Hills towns came to public meetings, describing a state of siege from a seemingly-constant barrage of newly-legal fireworks.
Local public safety officials also felt the pressure – some departments reported being flooded with complaints about fireworks use that, in many cases, didn't violate state law.
Despite pressure from residents to adopt ordinances regulating or even prohibiting fireworks use, most towns choose a wait-and-see approach – if the situation didn't improve within a year, towns would consider additional regulation.
So far, that caution seems to have paid off – local law enforcement and fire departments are reporting far fewer fireworks complaints this year and local retailers say the pace of sales has stabilized, from a flood in the lead-up to Fourth of July last year, to a steady flow this summer.
"I told everyone from day one that fireworks would calm down and people would just use them for special occasions," said Andre Vandenbulcke, owner of AAH Fireworks in West Paris.
"I think that's what is happening; people needed to get their quick fix and they were blowing them off every night. Now you're seeing people blowing them off at barbecues, birthdays, Fourth of July, New Years. You're not going to see people blowing them off every single night."
Vandenbulcke, who distributes his AAH brand to stores across the country, said that sales had been steady, but not overwhelming. Most customers are buying fireworks for special occasions and although the frequency of sales has been steady, people tend to be spending more, he said.
With one season of legal fireworks under their belt, people might be more confident using some of the larger, more expensive rockets and mortars they didn't try last year, Vandenbulcke said.
At Havoc Fireworks in Paris, owner Catherine Richards reports a similar situation – a steady stream of customers, but not quite the buying frenzy she saw last year.
Shortly after last Fourth of July, Richards reported she had sold out of almost her entire stock, including two 20-foot shipping containers she brought in, in anticipation of sales.
Richards suspects the novelty of being able to purchase fireworks legally has probably worn off – now most customers stop in to stock up for weekend celebrations rather than coming by every day.
The introduction of more competition in the market may also be having an effect. When Havoc opened last May, it was the fourth store in the state – now there are at least 18, opening up the market to more customers, Richards said.
Even without last years' frenzied pace of sales, Richards says she's hardly struggling – business is still brisk and over the winter she tripled the size of her store, in anticipation the crowds she expects in the lead-up to the Fourth.
Although retailers report steady sales, complaints about fireworks have dropped off.
Norway Police Chief Rob Federico said his office has received five fireworks complaints since the beginning of this year, compared to 18 received in the same time period last year.
Federico suggested that last year's early spring, combined with the novelty of fireworks led to more use last year.
"The newness is pretty much why we kept asking people to take a wait-and-see attitude than a knee-jerk reaction to try and curb use," Federico said, "to see if it really was a problem or if it was just the newness."
There also haven't been any injuries recorded yet this year, Federico said.
Even with fewer complaints, Federico said his department was keeping a close watch on the issue, particularly in the lead-up to what he expects will be a long Fourth of July weekend.
In West Paris, where numerous resident complaints triggered a community forum with the State Fire Marshal last year, Town Manager John White said he hasn't heard one complaint this summer.
"I'm not saying there aren't some people who might be bothered by them, but I haven't had any," White said. Like Federico, he suspected fewer fireworks were being set off, but people were also getting used to them.
Oxford Police Chief Jon Tibbetts said his department had only received three complaints so far this year, compared to seven in the same period in 2012. The town lodged a total of 16 fireworks complaints last year, he said.
According to Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, the number of complaints county-wide has also tumbled. The Sheriff's Office recorded 33 complaints in 2012 and only seven so far this year, Gallant said.
Even if complaints come streaming in over Fourth of July, Gallant didn't believe his office would get the same number as last year.
According to Paris Fire Chief Brad Frost, his department hadn't received any complaints this year.
Last year, a number of residents voiced concerns about fireworks in town and selectmen began looking into an ordinance to restrict their use. In February, selectmen voted to suspend pursuit of the ordinance, despite some concerns about fire risk.
Frost said he'd still like to see an ordinance that prohibits fireworks use on class four and five days, when he isn't even allowed to issue burn permits.