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Residents riled about fires, fireworks

June 23, 2013

Paul Peluso of Woonsocket picks out the Rock Star Assortment package of fireworks, a crowd favorite and the largest seller, according to store owner Michael O’Neill, on right, at SloJo’s Fireworks in Woonsocket Friday. Although certain types of fireworks are legal in Rhode Island, police say the loud firecrackers that are source of most noise complaints aren't sold in stores.

PAWTUCKET — With the first day of summer comes many reasons to celebrate. Yet, Pawtucket police and fire officials want to remind residents of the laws regarding two activities that can affect safety and quality of life in a densely populated city like Pawtucket: fireworks and outdoor burning.

According to Pawtucket Police Major Bruce Moreau, the topic of fireworks was foremost on residents' minds at a recent meeting of the Fairlawn Neighborhood Association. While Rhode Island lawmakers passed legislation in 2010 legalizing some types of fireworks, most of the kind that residents complained about remain illegal, he said.

Moreau, patrol commander of the police department, said that the only fireworks that are considered legal for possession (under Rhode Island General Law 3.1.1) are ground and hand-held sparkling devices (“sparklers”) that produce a shower of colored sparks. Additional effects may include “a colored flame, an audible crackling effect, an audible whistle effect, and smoke,” according to the definition.

These devices do not rise into the air, do not fire inserts or projectiles into the air, and do not explode or produce a report. Any firecracker, bottle rocket, M-80 type devices or any other device that launches a projectile and/or explodes and makes a “bang” are not legal, said Moreau. Violators will be cited under state law.

Moreau said that numerous members at the neighborhood meeting complained about their quality of life being affected by the use of these exploding type fireworks. They were also concerned with the impact these explosions had on their pets, many of whom cower from the noise.

Moreau said the Pawtucket Police Department receives numerous calls concerning fireworks at this time of year and leading up to the Fourth of July. He attributes part of the problem to many Rhode Islanders being confused about which kinds of fireworks are legal and which are illegal. He said there seems to be a proliferation of illegal fireworks in many city neighborhoods.

Moreau said he has directed the department's bike patrols as well as the patrol division to pay particular attention to these complaints. “Exploding-type fireworks are unsafe and illegal and affect everyone in the area where they are deployed,” said Moreau. He said that officers will investigate these complaints and cite violators, which will subject them to arrest and court appearances.

Moreau said the goal is voluntary compliance of the state laws and he hopes that arrests are unnecessary. “Our hope is that the residents respect their neighbors and realize that deploying exploding fireworks is illegal and has a direct impact on the quality of life for the people living around them,” he stated.

Another seasonal activity that can be a nuisance and a safety hazard--and is also illegal in the city--is the use of outdoor fire pits. Pawtucket Fire Capt. Robert Thurber, also the fire marshal, wants to remind residents that city ordinance prohibits outdoor burning of any kind.

Under the fire prevention code, ordinance 210-10 regarding outdoor burning, it is stated, “No person shall kindle or maintain any fire or authorize any fire to be kindled or maintained on any private land or public land, unless said fire is kindled and maintained solely for the purpose of outdoor cooking.”

Thurber said the allowed use of outdoor fire for cooking means using a grill designed for this purpose and “not just throwing hot dogs on a fire pit” when investigators come around to check out a complaint.

Also, when installing air conditioners, Thurber is asking that residents be careful not to block a window that leads to a fire escape or is the sole means of exit to a house or apartment. “I've seen a few air conditioners in windows leading to fire escapes already and I'll be talking to these people, he said. Such a practice can also lead to a citation for the resident. “We just want people to be safe,” he said.

 

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