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April fireworks show in Londonderry sparks review of regulations

Union Leader Correspondent

May 21. 2013 9:03PM

LONDONDERRY — With a late April fireworks display at the Londonderry Fish and Game Club sparking countless complaints, the town is taking a closer look at its fireworks regulations.

On April 27, the N.H. Pyrotechnics Association sponsored a three-hour event that town officials said prompted nearly 200 complaint calls from neighbors in Londonderry as well as Litchfield and Derry.

Acting Fire Chief Darren O'Brien said most of the fireworks used at last month's event were class B, which is particularly concerning.

During a lengthy discussion at Monday night's Town Council meeting, O'Brien and Fire Inspector Brian Johnson said they would like to see the use of class B fireworks limited to "town-sponsored" events in the future.

As it stands now, the only town-sponsored fireworks display is held during the August Old Home Day celebration.

The town ordinance permits the use of class B fireworks, also known as special or display fireworks, for a $1,000 fee. Town officials said that fee would be waived should the policy be changed to permit only "town-sponsored" events.

Bottle rockets and firecrackers are illegal in New Hampshire.

Class C fireworks, also known as consumer or common fireworks, are the types typically sold in Granite State retail shops. Consumer displays featuring more than $500 worth of fireworks are currently subject to a $50 fee per event.

But after speaking with officials in neighboring towns, O'Brien said he thinks it's time to change Londonderry's fireworks policies.

Those proposed changes also include the elimination of the $50 fees, specifying the times when class C fireworks may be used and requiring fire department detail during any class B, town-sponsored public fireworks displays.

"It's pretty hard for us to regulate the smaller, home displays," O'Brien said. "Plus, those who purchase fireworks know that with the free promotions offered at many of these stores, it's pretty easy to go over the $500 number."

Johnson said that when you "look at permitting class C fireworks as it stands right now, technically whenever you light a sparkler you'd need a permit."

"This is what we're trying to get away from," Johnson said. "Still it's a concern because you really can't put a price on safety. We've seen kids get hurt pretty bad and set a half-acre of brush on fire all from using a sparkler."

Under the updated ordinance, class C fireworks would only be permitted between the hours of 6 and 10 p.m. in keeping with Londonderry's noise ordinance.

Council Chairman John Farrell said a final draft of the proposed policy changes would need to be finalized via a public hearing at an upcoming meeting.

Acting Town Manager Bill Hart, who is also the Londonderry police chief, said concerns about noise pollution have been posed by "a number of citizens."

As it stands now, the police department is kept pretty busy during the warmer months when it comes to fireworks complaints.

"It's probably the largest single specific type of call we receive this time of the year," Hart said. "Right now, if the noise is sustained for any length of time, we do try and send a unit out there to tell people to quiet down."

The topic will be further discussed during an upcoming Town Council meeting.

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