MILFORD — Residents in the Granite Town will be able to set off fireworks legally for the first time in nearly 25 years after Selectmen voted in favor of rescinding an ordinance banning fireworks.
For the last six weeks, the board has been debating whether the ban is unnecessary and impinges on individual liberty.
Despite arguments that the ordinance protects citizens and reduces demands on police and firefighters, three of the five selectmen said Monday night the ordinance should be repealed.
“There’s little or no enforcement being done on them now,” Chairman Gary Daniels said. “If the government was to try to protect us from everything that would hurt us, we would have no freedom.”
Rules vary by town
All New Hampshire communities must comply with state laws regarding fireworks. Firecrackers and bottle rockets, for example, are illegal in the Granite State, as are M-80s, cherry bombs, and quarter sticks. No commercial fireworks can be set off when fire danger is high. Class C fireworks, those made specifically for consumer use, are legal according to state law, but individual cities and towns can require permits for use, restrict the times and places the fireworks can be set off and issue all-out bans.
Towns including Alton, Fremont, Goffstown, Nashua, Salem, Windham and Berlin have banned the use of consumer fireworks. Other communities, including Durham and Greenland, require residents to acquire permits.
In Rochester, the town allows fireworks to be fired between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Saturdays in the months of June and July and on holidays, including Labor Day, Fourth of July, and New Years Eve (no later than 1 a.m.).
Red Sox exception
In Freedom, where summer visitors once kept the locals awake with fireworks all summer long, an ordinance has been put in place to limit their use to the four days before July 4, the holiday itself, and four days after.
In addition to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, folks can also make noise in Freedom on those rare occasions when the Red Sox make history. Because the ordinance was passed during a particularly good year for baseball, the town included a provision that allows Class C fireworks to be set off “24 hours following the final out when the Red Sox win the World Series.”
Stay safe, stay sober
Mary McCluskey, manager at Phantom Fireworks in Londonderry, said that her company posts a list put out each year by the State Fire Marshal’s Office of the towns that ban or limit use of fireworks.
“Fireworks are safer now than they ever have been and sales are increasing every year,” said McCluskey. “Most towns are pro-fireworks because they’ve become comfortable that they’re safe.”
But the company still makes sure that everyone who walks out of the store with fireworks has in hand a pamphlet about using them safely, she said.
“You need to be at least 50 feet from any building, have a water source available, and wet down the ground where you’re lighting them off,” she said.
Londonderry Fire Chief Kevin McCaffrie said that most of the calls his department responds to have to do with noise complaints and debris from fireworks falling on other people’s properties. He emphasized the need for sobriety while handling fireworks.
“Just like people have a designated driver when they’re drinking, they should have a designated fireworks handler,” he said. “Alcohol and fireworks don’t mix.”