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More in News
Fireworks complaints trigger public forum
PARIS — A sharp increase in fireworks complaints in the area over the past few months has led public safety officials to organize a public forum for citizens to voice their concerns and ask questions about the issue.
The forum will be held July 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Paris Fire Station and led by West Paris Fire Chief Norm St. Pierre. Residents throughout the Oxford Hills are encouraged to attend.
St. Pierre said the forum will give residents the chance to ask the Fire Marshal and local fire and police chiefs questions about any fireworks issues that present themselves.
"If there are any issues that need to be discussed, or if people have questions on the best way to deal with these fireworks that are going off, they can go to the meeting and air out their discretion," said St. Pierre.
According to St. Pierre, the town's fire department has been getting an average of 15 separate fireworks complaints per night.
St. Pierre said that, a couple weeks ago, upset Pioneer Street residents confronted a neighbor who was lighting off fireworks after 10 p.m. and actually shut him down.
"I confronted him the night of the [July] third," said St. Pierre. "He was lighting them off in the middle of the road. Things like that are getting to annoy people. I gave him a warning."
He said that he has also been in touch with the Oxford County Sheriffs Department and "they have been responding to calls all over the place for fireworks complaints, just about every night – anywhere from 25 to 50 calls."
Most of the calls, he said, are people – mainly kids – just being ignorant.
"Kids are driving around in their cars lighting off Roman candles out the window," he said.
He said neighbors of those lighting them off legally are even "a little uptight about it."
"A lot of them don't understand the uses of it," he said, or the fact that people have the ability to use them legally. He said the meeting will help people understand the new fireworks law.
He anticipates that from the meeting, towns will come up with new ideas, rules and regulations for fireworks. He said even for towns without police departments, regulations are being sought.
He said according to the Fire Marshal's Office, if towns enact a policy, the Sheriffs Department would have to act on it. "They would have to respond if there are issues," he said.
"I know they said that if you don't have a police department, they [towns] won't be able to do anything, but that's not what we're hearing through the Fire Marshal's Office."
St. Pierre said that over the July 4 holiday, he heard of people lighting fireworks off from pontoon boats, which he said is "a grey area."
"That's not safe either," he said.
In Norway, Police Chief Robert Federico said that he had 11 fireworks complaints during the week of July 4 – six of them were actually on the Fourth, he said, and some of them were duplicate calls.
A majority of complaints, he said, were about noise and just simply the fact that they were being lit. Another big problem, he said, is that debris from fireworks people are setting off are landing on property not their own.
He speculates a lot of people are unaware of the law, and that a public forum would be a good way to address the problem.
"I've told everybody that if they have a complaint about fireworks, call, so we can at least check to make sure that they are being used legally and to give us some idea about whether it's a growing problem," Federico said.
Oxford and Paris
Oxford Police Chief Jon Tibbetts said since May 23, his department has received 10 fireworks complaints, mainly of noise.
In Paris, Police Chief David Verrier said that there have been 30 complaints of fireworks, from January 1 – when fireworks became legal – through July 9.
"They are anywhere from inquiries about the law, noise complaints, fear for animals," he said. "I've talked to two people who it affects because they've been in the military and served overseas, where bombs have gone over their heads.
"It's out of the ordinary hearing them all night long," he said. Most of the calls, he says, are in the downtown area, "where it's more disturbing ... because it makes it louder. The sound ricochets off buildings."
While public safety officials suspect that fireworks will soon die down, they say that discussing the issue is the most immediate remedy for complaints.
"I think this is the right forum to get these people to talk about the problem," said St. Pierre.