Joel Page, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine's fire marshal was pleased by the relatively small number of fireworks-related injuries leading up to Independence Day but warned people to stay safe as they continue to set off fireworks through the weekend.
This Fourth of July was the first in 63 years in which fireworks were legal in Maine, and people were able to legally create their own aerial displays in many towns.
There was only one major accident on Wednesday — a Standish man modified some fireworks, which went off in his face because of a short fuse, Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said.
Earlier, a Sabattus man was injured when he used a torch to dry out a wet mortar-style rocket, igniting the device, which hit him in the head. Also, children playing with sparklers in an apartment caused a fire that damaged a building in Portland.
"What we're seeing is people are not using them for what they're intended to do," Thomas said. "If they use them according to the manufacturer's recommendations, they'd certainly be a lot safer."
The most serious accident in the region happened in neighboring New Hampshire, where 11 people including five children were hurt when fireworks went off on the deck of a Pelham home where the fireworks were being set off. Two children were seriously injured: an 8-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy.
Across southern Maine, thunderstorms and downpours put a damper on the holiday, providing a different sort of fireworks.
In Portland, the state's largest display was delayed as lightning crackled, thunder rumbled and rain poured down. It was the same elsewhere across the region, with many municipal fireworks displays being delayed until Thursday.
But many folks still managed to fire off their newly purchased pyrotechnics.
In Scarborough, the weather cleared off long enough for John DiSanto to complete a pair of aerial displays for friends and family at his hilltop home.
DiSanto spent $2,500 at a local fireworks store to create a stunning celebration in memory of his brother, as well as friends, family and workers at a restaurant that he owns.
"The people here were clapping like they were at a rock concert," he said. "Given the whistling, the cheering, the clapping, it was quite the show. It was a lot of fun. I don't know anybody who doesn't like fireworks. It was a festive event."
DiSanto took his display seriously — it was choreographed with a beginning, middle and an end — but he also took safety seriously. He had a fire extinguisher and a hose at the ready, and fireworks were drenched with water after they were fired off.
Fireworks were made legal for the first time since 1949 by the Legislature, but it was still up to municipalities to decide whether or not to allow them.
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