PAWTUCKET – Fed up with what he describes as a “bombardment” of illegal fireworks displays in the city since late-May, District 2 City Councilor Mark J. Wildenhain said he will call on the state to draft legislation outlawing sparklers and other small-scale fireworks that are now legal in Rhode Island.
“It’s just been a nightmare,” Wildenhain said during a phone interview with The Times on Monday. “I’ve gotten residents pleading for help, I’ve gotten residents with pets, children, men with PTSD in closets cringing, calling for help.”
“I don’t think they bring any value,” Wildenhain said of the amateur aerial pyrotechnic displays. “It creates a mess, the parking lots, people light stuff off and left it there, it does not add to the quality of life, it diminishes it, and it’s been more and more difficult. I’ve had people begging me to do something about it. It does not stop at 9, it goes until 1 or 2 in the morning.”
One of the biggest difficulties in legislating the significant uptick in neighborhood fireworks displays in recent weeks, Wildenhain said, is that when police are called, by the time they arrive, the culprits have fled the scene and all that remains is debris.
Wildenhain said that it can be frustrating for council members when they receive a call from a constituent about the noisy inconveniences in their neighborhood, but “feel as helpless as the person on the other end of the phone.”
“We have a responsibility to be good neighbors and when people are not, they should be held responsible for their lack of concern or care for the people they live around them…” the councilor explained. “The state has an obligation to allow cities and towns to makes laws that represent a true quality of life for the people we serve.”
Wildenhain said that during Wednesday’s council meeting, he will ask his fellow councilors to send a letter to the state’s elected officials to draft legislation outlawing fireworks in Rhode Island.
“I think our best course of action is to make them illegal in the state,” Wildenhain said. “I just want that law repealed … It sounded like a war zone over here the other day. They have to be illegal for the police to put anything in place. Even then it’s kind of hard for the police, but I’ve had mothers begging me, pets are cringing, it’s just wreaked havoc. It’s just consideration for your neighbors.”
According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, in Rhode Island only ground and hand-held sparklers are legal for use by the general public. Rhode Island law states that no one can sell, use, or possess display fireworks or aerial consumer fireworks. Illegal fireworks are defined by the Office of the State Fire Marshal as “any firecrackers, rockets, mortars, or any other device that launches a projectile and/or makes a ‘bang’/ detonation.”
The only fireworks allowed in Rhode Island are ground-based and hand-held sparkling devices; fountains; illuminating torches, wheels, spinners, and flitter sparklers; sparklers, party poppers, snappers, toy smoke devices, snakes, glow worms, wire sparklers, and dipped sticks.
Wildenhain is confident that he’ll have the support of elected officials from town and city councils across Rhode Island, as well as representatives in the Statehouse, saying they have “been doing nothing but fielding phone calls” about the ongoing fireworks nuisance.
“It devalues the quality of living, it doesn’t add value…” Wildenhain said. “This does not service our community whatsoever and we should not have our hands tied by the state.”
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette