AUGUSTA, Maine — Richard Taylor stepped outside of his Augusta-area home at midnight on New Year’s Eve, casting an ear for any private fireworks celebrations.
A law passed last year made the sale, possession and use of fireworks legal in Maine, at least in communities that haven’t banned them. The law went into effect Jan. 1. Critics have been concerned that nights like New Year’s Eve and July 4 would be loud and dangerous.
Taylor, research and planning analyst for the state fire marshal’s office, heard nothing on New Year’s Eve. Not a bang, pop or boom.
More importantly, there have been no reports of any fireworks-related injuries, said Taylor.
“I’m happy to say I’ve heard nothing of the sort,” said Taylor. “There have been no incidents reported.”
At least one fireworks company operating across the border in New Hampshire reached out to Mainers, urging them to take advantage of their new-found pyrotechnic freedom. Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks is a national chain with 54 stores nationwide, including one in Seabrook, N.H.
Phantom featured a message on its website sporting an outline of the state of Maine with a clock set to midnight, fireworks in the background, and the message “Maine Residents: Shoot Fireworks Legally at Midnight on New Year’s Eve.” In addition, a tweet sent out by Phantom’s @fireworks Twitter account on Jan. 1 read, “MAINERS: You’re now legal to enjoy consumer fireworks! Check out our NH locations.”
“There’s certainly a value to us in educating the Mainers that the law has changed,” said Dan Peart, director of showroom operations for Phantom.
Peart said December was a good month for sales across Phantom’s locations, and he has gotten similar reports from other dealers, including some in New Hampshire. But they hadn’t diced the sales to see if Maine’s new law allowing some fireworks had an effect on sales.
“We haven’t had time to sort whether or not the business strictly coming from Maine residents has had an impact,” said Peart.
Likewise, Stephen Pelkey, CEO of Atlas Fireworks in Jaffrey, N.H., said December sales were up about 12 percent more than 2010, “however, we don’t really track where they’re from — I really don’t know if there were more Mainers.”
Atlas doesn’t have a border location, but has stores in the New Hampshire towns of Rindge, Newport, Londonderry, Belmont and Amherst.
Both Peart and Pelkey said their companies are pursuing stores in Maine.
Peart said Phantom is looking at one, possibly two stores here, though he declined to name specific locations.
“We fully intend to be in Maine with the 2012 fireworks season,” he said.
Pelkey said Atlas is looking at three different locations in Maine, away from the New Hampshire border. He wouldn’t discuss specific locations, but did say that a few communities have invited Atlas to provide more information about what a store would look like.
“For right now, it’s a bit wait-and-see,” said Pelkey.
Pelkey said that while the law was changed last year, there’s still a number of specific criteria and regulations that have to be spelled out by state agencies.
“In order for anything to happen this season, there would have to be some solid rule-making, and those communities willing to take a stab at it would need to have all that in place, I would say by mid-March, in order to be effectively open by Memorial Day weekend,” said Pelkey. “It at least is moving favorably forward. Like anything that’s new and a bit of a change, it takes an adjustment period.”
He noted that many communities in Maine have decided not to allow the sale or use of fireworks — mirroring the actions of many New Hampshire communities 25 years ago.
The state fire marshal’s office maintains a list of communities that have taken some sort of action regarding fireworks — from allowing them with permits to moratoriums to outright bans — and they include communities such as Bangor, South Portland, Freeport, Ellsworth and others. The list may not be comprehensive; it doesn’t include Portland or Augusta, for example, both of which banned fireworks.