SOUTH PORTLAND — The sign welcoming people to South Portland sits in a flower bed on Broadway, barely a stone’s throw from the Casco Bay Bridge.
As people enter this city these days, they are greeted by a second sign nearby, one reminding them fireworks are illegal in the city.
The reminder could be displayed in almost all of the towns and cities covered by The Forecaster, where local governments have banned the sale and use of commercial fireworks following the repeal of the state law prohibiting them.
Nicole Clegg, Portland’s director of communications, said Portland police will also post signs reminding people of the city ban on selling, possessing, and using fireworks.
“The Police Department has been working hard through community policing to spread the word about the ordinance,” Clegg said, adding there will be additional city patrols on the Fourth of July to enforce the ban.
Clegg said police encourage residents to call the department on its non-emergency line, 874-8479, to report incidents of fireworks use or people possessing them.
Brunswick Deputy Police Chief Marc Hagan said his department has received 12 complaints about fireworks noise since June 1, three times as many as were recorded in the same period last year.
Hagan said the source of the noise could not be located in nine calls and three warnings were issued to violators.
“We took an educational approach,” he said.
The state repeal took effect in January, with towns allowed a local option to ban or regulate fireworks. State law still prohibits the more powerful and aerial-type of fireworks, including bottle rockets and M-80s.
The latest ban was enacted by Topsham voters on June 12, although Selectman David Douglass has started a petition drive to have it overturned.
Last week, Douglass said he hopes to gather the 459 needed signatures by Labor Day in order for the repeal question to be part of the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
In Scarborough, Cumberland and Harpswell, limited use of fireworks is allowed, but confined to specific dates. Only Chebeague Island has embraced the state law without exception.
Scarborough Police Detective Sgt. Rick Rouse said his department has answered 50 noise complaints about fireworks since about June 1, with 33 of those calls occurring since June 19.
Last week, Phantom Fireworks opened in the Gateway Shoppes off Payne Road in Scarborough and Atlas Fireworks opened on Route 1 in the town near Haigis Parkway.
Phantom Fireworks Vice President William Weimer emphasized the company’s safety-first approach in a letter last week, but Rouse and South Portland Police Lt. Frank Clark said noise and fire hazards remain a concern from their perspectives.
Clark said his department is using patrols to try and reduce fireworks use while coordinating an awareness campaign with Lt. Rob Couture of the South Portland Fire Department. He said he is certain complaints have increased, at least on an anecdotal basis.
“If you are coming to South Portland,” he urged, “please be aware (fireworks are) against the law here.”
Rouse said it seems some people are unaware of the ordinance that bans use of fireworks in Scarborough except on July 3-5, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
He said the increased complaints have occurred throughout town, after a decline in calls over the last decade.
In Cape Elizabeth, Police Capt. Brent Sinclair said there have been six noise complaints about fireworks since June 1, which is about average.
Within The Forecaster coverage area,
Capt. Brent Sinclair
From June 1 through this week six fireworks complaints so far this year, but does not see it as an increase
Does not see a real a problem
In the 14 towns covered by The Forecaster, use and sale of fireworks are almost uniformally banned.
Throughout the Forecaster coverage area, towns have enacted full or partial bans on the use and intent to sell fireworks.
In Scarborough, where using fireworks is legal only in certain time frames from July 3-5, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, two fireworks stores opened earlier this month.
Lt. Frank Clark – South Portland Police
Anecdotally, we have had a number of noise complants related to fireworks discharges over the last month
With that in mind, have put together details to look for violations specifically. One or two found and summonsed
It is a safety issue and violation of law, and fire hazard.
The more densely populated an area
the intent was to protect neighbors
Lt. Rob Couture is the one to call from fire dept
The complaints we get are nuisance and noise related
Noise complaints related to fireworks in South Portland have increased, according to police, and this reminder was posted on Broadway at the intersection with Waterman Drive and the Casco Bay Bridge.
• Bath: Illegal to use or sell.
• Brunswick: Illegal to use or sell.
• Cape Elizabeth: Illegal to sell, use, or possess with intent to sell or use.
• Cumberland: Illegal to sell year-round, but legal to use July 3 and July 5 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., July 4 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., Dec. 31 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., and Jan. 1 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Chebeague Island: Legal according to Maine law.
• Falmouth: Illegal to use or sell.
• Freeport: Illegal to sell, use and possess with intent to sell.
• Harpswell: Sales are illegal. Legal to use July 3, July 5, and Jan. 1 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., on July 4 and Dec. 31 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the next day, and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends immediately before or after July 4 and Dec. 31.
• North Yarmouth: Illegal to use, sell, and possess with intent to sell.
• Portland: Illegal to sell, use or possess.
• Scarborough: Legal to sell at licensed stores. Legal to use July 4 and Dec. 31 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. the following day, and on Jan. 1 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Legal to use July 3 and 5, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. when dates are weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. when dates are on weekends.
• South Portland: Illegal to use or sell.
• Topsham: Illegal to sell or use.
• Yarmouth: Illegal to sell, use, or possess with intent to sell.