Ellsworth passes 180-day fireworks moratorium

Posted Nov. 21, 2011, at 10:12 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors voted unanimously Monday to impose a six-month moratorium on the sale, use and possession of fireworks beginning Jan. 1 while city officials wait for final rules to be handed down by the state.

Earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage signed into law a bill legalizing the sale and use of certain consumer fireworks beginning next year. But state officials, including the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office, still are developing rules and regulations stipulating precisely how fireworks can be sold and which fireworks will become legal and which will remain outlawed.

The law also allows towns and cities to impose their own fireworks rules, possibly including prohibiting them altogether.

Ellsworth Fire Chief Richard Tupper asked the City Council to approve a 180-day moratorium in order to give him and city officials time to develop a local ordinance once the state releases the final rules. Tupper indicated that they are unlikely to ban fireworks, however.

“We are not against the sale, use or possession of fireworks,” Tupper told the council Monday night. “But we want to make sure it is done in a safe manner not only for the person who is buying them but also for their neighbor.”

Cities and towns throughout Maine have been preparing for the legalization of fireworks in a variety of ways. Elected officials in some localities, including Bangor and Augusta, have voted to continue prohibiting people from shooting off fireworks even after they become legal. Brewer, meanwhile, recently adopted an ordinance allowing fireworks but with some restrictions.

Some fireworks distributors already are eying locations in Maine where they can establish stores, which will have to be located in free-standing buildings rather than the temporary roadside tents found in some states. Additionally, Maine’s law prohibits other retailers such as convenience stores or big-box stores from selling fireworks.

Although the state’s rules have not been completed, the law makes clear that some of the most common types of fireworks used illegally by revelers throughout Maine today will remain illegal after Jan. 1. Those include the ever-popular “bottle rockets” and all aerial or missile-type fireworks.

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