Fireworks permit requirement remains in New Ipswich
|Published: 08-24-2023 3:42 PM
The town will continue requiring a permit for fireworks displays, after a motion from Selectman Jason Somero to rescind the requirement failed to gain traction with the remainder of the board.
Somero proposed rescinding the permit during the board’s Aug. 22 meeting, after a discussion on the merits of the permit with the town’s police and fire chiefs. Both Police Chief Mike Abel and Fire Chief Gary Somero voiced that they found the process valuable in educating the public and fielding complaints.
The town’s ordinance requires applicants to appear in person before the fire chief or an authorized designee seven days prior to the anticipated display. The permit must also be approved by the chief of police and the Select Board or their authorized designee. Applicants must be at least 21, and the fireworks from a licensed retail. The applicant also cannot store more than the quantity of fireworks needed for the permitted display.
Fireworks have to be ignited a minimum of 50 feet from any structure, overhead utilities, woodlands, property lines or boundaries, and have a means of fire extinguishment accessible. Displays must be between the hours of 5 and 10 p.m.
There is a $15 fee for the permit, and violations of the permit can come with a written warning or revocation of the permit for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and $500 fine for a third offense.
Select Board Chair Shawn Talbot said the ordinance was reviewed the previous year, when the board discussed whether applying for a permit two weeks ahead of time was necessary, and reduced that day to a seven-day window. He noted that while some surrounding towns do have a fireworks permit, many towns do not, and said the purpose of the discussion was to determine the permits benefits and whether it was necessary.
Abel said it’s a positive for the Police Department, because if they get a firework complaint for a show that has gone through the permitting process, the department will already know whether the set up is appropriate and not creating a fire danger without expending police resources.
“We can quickly check the list, and say, ‘Well, there’s a permit at that location, it’s been verified it’s OK to light,’ that the conditions are adequate or safe,” Abel said.
Abel said there are state laws that outline commercial fireworks, which the town would follow if it didn’t have a permitting process, but it can be difficult to locate the source of displays without an application.
Gary Somero said for larger displays, such as during concerts or events, depending upon the size of the display, the town may need to use other departments such as the state fire marshal’s office. He added that it’s a way to track fireworks, and that he’s unaware of ever having denied a requested permit.
Jason Somero asked how many times enforcement had been required due to violations of either town or state rules for fireworks, saying he isn’t in favor of over-regulating displays at a town level.
“The state has laws. Everything is written down for safety. Why do we have to add another layer to restrict people from celebrating?” he said. “The laws are in place. Let freedom ring.”
Abel said there have been very few incidents where enforcement was required, but he feels the permits help reduce responses and help with complaints when they come in. Gary Somero said the intent was not to restrict people, but to have public knowledge of where the fireworks are.
Board members discussed ways to make the permit process more permissive, including lowering the $15 permit fee, or further reducing the lead time for applications, but took votes on neither measure, though Talbot noted he would not oppose revisiting those issues at a later date.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or email@example.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.