The Chinese are often considered to have invented fireworks. By 200 B.C., they discovered that bamboo shoots would explode when lit, and believed these early forms of firecrackers scared off evil spirits. A nearly 2000-year-old Chinese legend tells of a cook or an alchemist (a forerunner of a chemist) who heated a crude form of gunpowder expecting to eat it for eternal life, but it exploded.
Medieval travelers brought the gunpowder recipe to Europe. During the Renaissance, the Italians added metals, and become known for their brighter, colorful displays. European rulers held fireworks displays on important occasions. Public displays had begun by the 1730s, and Europeans brought their fireworks knowledge to the New World. On July 4, 1777, our tradition of public fireworks celebrations began when our nation celebrated its first year of independence.
Maine Guidelines & Restrictions
In Maine, except sparklers and caps, consumer fireworks were banned from 1949 to 2011. A state law lifting this ban went into effect on January 1, 2012. It limits fireworks use to cities and towns where they're approved and requires users and buyers to be 21 or older. Sky, bottle, and missile-type rockets, helicopters, and aerial spinners are illegal. State and federal laws also ban M80s, cherry and aerial bombs, large, reloadable shells, firecrackers containing more than 50mg of powder, and mail order kits for making fireworks.
Fireworks can't be used in public places and depending on local laws, can be used only on the buyer's own property or on private property with the property owner's permission.
Use is limited from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on Independence Day and December 31, when fireworks are allowed until 12:30 a.m. the next day. These extended hours also apply the weekend before and after those dates. (Where there are no local regulations, state law applies.)
Maine Safety Recommendations
- Use fireworks outdoors only.
- Always have water handy (a hose or a bucket) and follow manufacturers' instructions.
- Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and dispose of it properly.
- Use common sense. The National Council on Fireworks Safety has more tips.
Fireworks contain metals and chemicals that can contaminate water and have a short-term effect on air quality. Light them with care near sensitive groups, such as children, the elderly, or people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
Keep unused fireworks that haven't expired in a cool, dry place such as a garage, out of the reach of children and away from appliances.
Soak unused, misfired, or "dud" fireworks in buckets until they're thoroughly saturated.
Double-wrap them in plastic wrap or in plastic bags so they won't dry out, then put them in the trash or take them to your local solid waste facility. For other disposal options, contact your local fire department or waste facility.