Bath mulls fireworks restrictions

Steve Carbone, right, owner of Atomic Fireworks Inc. in Seabrook, N.H., checks out Frank Labbe, center, and Kris Kay, left, as he buys fireworks for an upcoming party. July 7, 2011.
Steve Carbone, right, owner of Atomic Fireworks Inc. in Seabrook, N.H., checks out Frank Labbe, center, and Kris Kay, left, as he buys fireworks for an upcoming party. July 7, 2011.
Posted Oct. 06, 2011, at 5:35 a.m.

BATH, Maine — At the request of the city’s fire and police chiefs, Bath City Manager Bill Giroux will ask city councilors this evening to consider a ban on fireworks in all or part of the city.

The discussion will take place three months before a new state law takes effect that will allow the use, possession and sale of consumer fireworks.

Bath Fire Chief Steve Hinds and Police Chief Michael Field worry that the density of the city’s downtown business district and many close-knit residential areas would heighten the public safety risk associated with the use of fireworks. Field said he anticipates an increased number of police calls because so many people live so near one another.

“We’re a very compact, very tight community when it comes to homes,” Hinds said Tuesday. “You’re right on top of one another in the heart of the community.”

While Bath is a small city, he said, the density is more akin to that in a “much larger community” such as Portland — where city officials adopted a personal-use fireworks ban last month.

With such a tight density, he said, “Any type of incendiary fireworks are, in my opinion, from the fire (aspect), quite a challenge. I just don’t think that’s something we should (allow) within the city proper — in the heart of the city.”

“Bath is one of the most densely populated areas in the state, with a lot of apartment buildings and apartment areas, such as Maritime Apartments,” Field said. “It’s a bit concerning. And there’s the quality of life (aspect). You may want to shoot off fireworks, but your neighbor who is 10 feet next to you on each side may not be a fan of that. I think of the number of calls we get now for fireworks — especially during the Fourth of July — and I can sense that when the new law goes into effect, they will jump up.”

And while the new law only allows those 21 or older to purchase or possess fireworks, Field said he suspects younger people will use them as well.

In recent weeks and months, other communities throughout the state have passed, or considered passing, bans similar to that proposed by Hinds and Field.

On Monday, the Augusta fire chief and city manager said they would seek to ban fireworks in that city — one that Hinds said has “areas that are packed, just like (Bath) is.”

Last month, the Portland City Council voted to do the same after its fire chief said the city was too densely populated to allow fireworks, the Associated Press reported.

On Monday, Brunswick Town Councilor Ben Tucker requested that town staff research ordinances in other towns prohibiting fireworks, for possible future discussion of a similar ban in Brunswick.

Giroux said he will address the item under the manager’s report at tonight’s City Council meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

To see more of the Times Record visit timesrecord.com.

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