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Fire experts remind fireworks users to be safe, check ordinances

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In the midst of celebrating Independence Day and summer in general, people enjoying their own fireworks should be sure to be safe and check with local fire departments, fire experts say.

This year is the first full summer where Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield have fireworks ordinances in effect. Last June, Presque Isle enacted a fireworks ordinance that requires permits for fireworks in the urban compact zone, while Fort Fairfield adopted a fireworks ordinance this past spring that requires all fireworks users in the town to seek a permit.

Presque Isle Fire Chief Darrell White said that the city has not seen any major fires from fireworks since Maine legalized consumer fireworks in 2012. However, city councilors voted to enact a fireworks ordinance last year for the urban compact zone, due to concerns voiced by residents living in Presque Isle’s dense residential neighborhoods.

The ordinance does not apply to people living outside of the urban compact zone, although White suggested that anyone setting up fireworks check with their local fire department about wildfire risks and also notify their neighbors.

For Presque Isle residents living in the urban compact zone, anyone who wishes to use fireworks needs to obtain a permit — $10 for the whole year — and notify the fire department before using them.

Right now, there’s still a lot of moisture out there,” White said, adding that the Maine Forest Service lists the area as having a moderate fire risk.

Currently, White said, the department has about 25 active fireworks permits that were issued this year.

“So far, the system is working well. We’ve had no issues,” the fire chief said. Fines for violating Presque Isle’s ordinance range from $100 to $500.

“My biggest safety tip is, if you’re going to be shooting fireworks off in the compact zone, as a courtesy notify your neighbors.”

The Fort Fairfield Town Council approved a new fireworks ordinance in April.

The ordinance requires anyone who wants to use fireworks to obtain a permit, and limits the days the user can employ them.

Permit holders can use fireworks on July 3 and 4, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, between noon and 10 p.m., with the exception of the New Year’s holiday, when they can be used until 12:30 a.m. on the night of Dec. 31.

Fort Fairfield residents also can request to use fireworks for “special occasions,” such as weddings or graduations, although the use of those fireworks will be restricted to Fridays and Saturdays between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

At the April meeting, town manager Jim Risner said the town has received a range of complaints since consumer fireworks were legalized in the state in 2012.

“Fort Fairfield has many veterans living here and the discharging of fireworks can be an arduous time for some of them,” Risner said. “Residents have also complained about the amount of stress the noise from discharging fireworks has caused for their animals.”

Since Maine legalized the sale of consumer fireworks in 2012, more than 60 municipalities have adopted ordinances restricting their use in some way. Other Aroostook County towns with fireworks ordinances include Caribou, Houlton, Madawaska and Van Buren.

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