As communities across the state of Maine gear up to celebrate this year’s 4th of July holiday with barbecues, family reunions and fireworks displays, the personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing want you and your family to stay safe, particularly if you plan on setting off consumer fireworks as part of your festivities. Although many types of consumer fireworks are now legal in Maine (most were banned from 1949 to 2011), many Fire Chiefs and safety experts agree that consumer fireworks must be handled with extreme caution in order to avoid serious injury accidents.
Brushing up on a few simple, common sense fireworks safety tips and reviewing some of the pertinent fireworks laws in Maine will help keep you and your loved ones safe this 4th of July.
Maine Laws and Consumer Fireworks
State law requires all users and buyers of consumer fireworks to be at least 21 years old, and limits the use of consumer fireworks to cities and towns where they are approved. The law also prohibits the use of sky, bottle and missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, M80s, cherry and aerial bombs, large/reload-able shells, shells, firecrackers containing more than 50 mg of powder and mail order kits for making fireworks. Sky Rockets and Bottle Rockets with more than 20 grams of powder. Mortar/launch tubes cannot contain more than 60 grams of powder.
Additionally, Maine Fire Marshal Joe Thomas says consumers should keep in mind that although fireworks are now legal in Maine, all fireworks that will be used in Maine must be purchased in the state. Consumer fireworks can also only be used on a person’s own property unless they obtain written permission or consent from the property owner.
In many cities and towns, fireworks can be set off between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Those hours are may be expanded for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. But, as the Portland Press Herald points out, it’s not always easy to know what laws apply to your particular city or town, as fireworks laws and ordinances vary across the state. (Patchwork Maine Fireworks Laws Make July 4th Difficult). If you are in violation of any laws, you are subject fines of no less than $50 and no more than $500 (a civil offense). If you knowingly sell or distribute fireworks to someone under the age of 21, you may be subject to a class D crime.
Fire Chiefs point out that anyone who chooses to set off fireworks on their own or someone else’s property on the 4th of July should be courteous and mindful of their neighbors. Setting off fireworks is no different than any other loud activity that might cause a potential disturbance- if your neighbors make a complaint and you are warned for Disorderly Conduct and do not stop your activity, you may be subject to arrest.
Fireworks Statistics and Safety Information
Many homeowners mistakenly assume that if fireworks are purchased legally, they are safe. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that fireworks be ignited only by professionals. That is because fireworks, even when used with extreme caution, are dangerous and can cause serious and lasting injuries.
The majority of injuries and deaths from fireworks (66 percent) occur around the 4th of July, and most injuries occur as a result of class C (consumer) fireworks. Sparklers, which may seem innocuous to parents, cause a surprising number of injuries. Sparklers can reach temperatures up to a 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause painful burns and serious injuries to the eyes.
Fireworks Statistics and Safety Tips
- Sparklers and other novelty fireworks accounted for 32% of the emergency room fireworks injuries in 2009.
- In 2002, 8,800 people were treated in emergency rooms for firework-related injuries.
- Fifty percent of firework-related injuries happen to children ages 14 years and younger.
- The risk of injury to children between the ages of 10 and 14 from fireworks is more than twice that of the general population.
Fireworks Safety Tips and Precautions
- Purchase fireworks at licensed stores, only in the quantity that you will use.
- Do not allow anyone under the age of 21 to use or set off fireworks.
- Do not set off fireworks on another person’s property unless you have their permission.
- Wear protective eyewear when you are setting off fireworks and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each firework.
- Light only one firework at a time, and move back quickly once the firework is lit.
- Keep spectators, pets and children at a safe and appropriate distance when you are setting off your fireworks.
- Have a water hose nearby in case of fire and a bucket of water to submerge any fireworks that don’t discharge properly.
- Never try to relight or reignite a firework that hasn’t discharged properly.
- If a firework does not discharge, let it sit alone for at least 15 minutes, then submerge it completely in a bucket of water.
- When you are finished with your fireworks, make sure to clean up all debris in the area.
- Store unused fireworks away from lighters or matches and out of the reach of children.
- Never buy or use illegal fireworks.
Maine Fire Chief: Education Helps Prevent Tragic Injuries From Fireworks
Portland Maine Fire Chief Jerome F. LaMoria recalls a particularly tragic incident when an 11 year old boy was given an M-80 explosive by his father. The illegal firework exploded before the young man could throw it. In a stroke of irony, the boy and his father had attended a safety talk given by the Fire Chief at the boy’s school just before his accident. Fire Chief LaMoria recalled the boy’s father smiling when he was giving his presentation, and that the father seemed to scoff at the suggestion that fireworks were indeed dangerous.
Days after the safety presentation, paramedics were called to the over-confident father’s home. The grieving father questioned whether his son would ever regain use of his hand, and lamented the fact that he hadn’t listened to the Fire Chief’s sound advice. In tears, all he could ask was, “Why didn’t I listen?”
The experienced personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing want you and your family to enjoy this Fourth of July. But don’t ruin a lovely holiday by ignoring commonsense safety rules. Be safe if you choose to set of consumer fireworks, and follow simple fireworks safety tips to keep you and your guests safe.
If someone in your family has been injured in a fireworks accident and would like to begin understanding your rights, please call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing to schedule a free and confidential evaluation of your case. Attorneys in our Lewiston, Portland and downtown Portland law offices are available to answer your questions regarding your accident, and will put our expertise and experience in the field of personal injury law to work for your family.
Our personal injury attorneys provide our blog as a service to our clients. They are meant to be purely informational.