MEREDITH — Speaking to the Board of Selectmen at a workshop yesterday, Fire Chief Ken Jones expressed concern that despite a town ordinance requiring a permit to display fireworks, the number of applications filed and permits granted fall far short of the number of fireworks displays.
Town Manager Phil Warren added that persons displaying fireworks without a permit are liable to a charge of disorderly conduct, which carries a fine of not less than $50 or more than $1,000 depending on the nature of the offense.
Jones said that most residents, including what he estimated to be about a third of his department's firefighters, were unaware that permits are required. He explained that applications should be filed 15 days before the display, but conceded "this rarely occurs". Jones estimated the department receives between 20 and 30 applications.
Both Jones and Warren noted that because the state permits the purchase and possession of fireworks while cities and towns may prohibit or regulate their use, it is not surprising that people, particularly visitors, assume that what can be bought can also be displayed. Fireworks dealers, Jones pointed out, are obliged to inform customers of municipalities that either prohibit or regulate fireworks, but doubted this requirement is effective.
Although the application is is somewhat perfunctory, Jones said that he asks applicants to sketch a map of the property indicating tree lines, public utilities and nearby structures as well as the exact location where the fireworks will be displayed. Jones said that in some cases he visits the property to ensure that fireworks can be displayed safely. "We've had some complaints over the past several years," Jones said, adding that many of them were raised by people lighting fireworks "later than they should." He said that he was especially concerned about the use of fireworks in the densely developed parts of town.
Jones said "I have no recommendation at this time" and Warren added that "our goal here is education."