‘There’s not much we can do’ PDs brace for illegal fireworks on Fourth

  • The fireworks display at the Greenfield Independence Day fireworks celebration at Beacon Field Saturday, July 2.

  • Fireworks light up the sky above Memorial Field in Concord on Monday, July 4, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Fireworks light up the sky above Memorial Field in Concord on Monday, July 4, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Fireworks explode over Conway for the town's 250th anniversary celebration Friday, June 16, 2017.

  • Fireworks light up the sky above Memorial Field in Concord on Monday, July 4, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Fireworks light up the sky above Memorial Field in Concord on Monday, July 4, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce held its 25th Festival of Fireworks on Saturday, Aug. 20. 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/2/2017 4:33:08 PM

The earliest known suggestion that American independence be celebrated with flash and majesty came from founding father John Adams.

“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty,” he wrote to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, one day after the Continental Congress voted for independence. “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

But there was something the future first vice president and second president had no way of knowing — his home state would prohibit consumer fireworks. Massachusetts is one of three (the others being New Jersey and Delaware) with such a ban. However, just because an activity is illegal doesn’t mean people don’t do it.

Fireworks stores in New Hampshire see a flood of business from Massachusetts residents who purchase the goods and bring them home for their Fourth of July celebrations. Police departments in Massachusetts are aware of this occurrence but acknowledge only so much can be done about it.

“We keep our eye on things,” said Athol Police Chief Russell T. Kleber, whose town is roughly 20 minutes from the state line. “We certainly follow any lead that comes in. It’s something you kind of have to put up with this time of year, within reason.”

Kleber said the fireworks law is enforced whenever possible, but “so many people are using fireworks from New Hampshire.” He also said the public seems more tolerant in the days leading up to the Fourth of July of fireworks and the noise they make.

“We probably would get more complaints after a certain hour, like at 10 o’clock at night,” Kleber said.

He said anyone caught with fireworks runs the risk of being arrested or summoned to court. He said the fireworks will be confiscated.

Greg Cavanagh, the warehouse manager for Phantom Fireworks of Hinsdale, N.H., said his store gets customers from all over the surrounding area. This is the Christmas of the fireworks industry.

Cavanagh said the store gives safety pamphlets to all its customers and staff members are trained to answer any questions.

“We are very big on proper use and safety,” he said.

Fireworks.com, the company’s website, lists the fireworks laws of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and has a page for “Fireworks University,” which offers pointers on how to stay safe.

But Leyden Police Chief Dan Galvis stressed that fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts and dangerous in general. He said his department responds to all noise complaints and will have extra patrols on duty on the Fourth of July.

“It’s hard for us to catch them coming (from New Hampshire) because we don’t know who has them,” he said. “Unless they’re in plain sight, there’s not much we can do.”

Galvis said he visited the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hinsdale the other day and saw “a lot of Massachusetts cars” in the town, likely filled with people purchasing fireworks.

He warned that fireworks and alcohol are a bad mix, adding that “fools who are drinking all night” are one of his biggest concerns.

Sgt. Robert Blomgren, of the Massachusetts State Police barracks in Belchertown, said there will be extra boat patrols on the Quabbin Reservoir this weekend and on Independence Day.

Reach Domenic Poli
at: dpoli@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 258.

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