SCARBOROUGH, Maine — In the runup to the first Fourth of July in decades in which consumer fireworks are widely legal in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage and State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas used the recent opening of a new fireworks store in Scarborough to stress the importance of fireworks safety.
“This is the first time Maine has had fireworks for a long, long time and I believe what we want to do is make sure people are encouraged to use them safely,” said LePage on Monday.
Fireworks became legal in Maine on Jan. 1 after being illegal in the state since 1949. The law making fireworks legal, however, allowed individual municipalities to enact their own bans on fireworks, which 36 towns and cities have done, including Portland.
In addition to encouraging safety, LePage brought up a familiar refrain about keeping Maine business-friendly during his comments about legalizing fireworks in the state.
“It’s all about the economy,” LePage said. “There’s a demand, and we want to make sure there’s an adequate supply, that it’s safe, [and] sold to people that are of age within the law. And it creates jobs.”
The Phantom Fireworks store in Scarborough employs about 50 workers, according to William Weimer, vice president of the Ohio-based company. Weimer said the store will employ about 40 people year-round and 50 during peak season, which he said runs from mid-April until the end of the summer.
Phantom Fireworks celebrated its grand opening in Scarborough on Wednesday. This brings to 10 the number of licensed fireworks stores in Maine. The first was Pyro City, which opened in Manchester just two months after the law went into effect.
The Scarborough store was packed Monday, with drivers vying for parking spaces and long lines at the cash registers. Customers could be seen leaving with carts piled high.
Fire Marshal Thomas joined the governor to discuss safety and fireworks regulations.
Thomas said the fire marshal’s office has been receiving a steady stream of calls from residents wondering about how fireworks regulations affect them and their towns.
“You gotta realize, these have been illegal since 1949, and with a new device in people’s hands, we want them to be prepared,” Thomas said. “We’re expecting a busy week [of] fielding questions about [fireworks] use.”
Weimer said Phantom Fireworks is very concerned about the safety of its products, attaching safety brochures to every receipt and printing shopping bags with safety tips.
The governor’s visit came just hours after children started a two-alarm fire in Portland when they accidentally caught a mattress on fire using sparklers they had lit with a toaster. The fire displaced residents of seven apartments in the 22-unit building on Montgomery Street.
Thomas stressed it is illegal for adults to furnish fireworks to minors.
“We’re really concerned about making sure these don’t end up in the hands of children,” he said.