Fireworks dealers target Massachusetts residents

Adam Riglian

Massachusetts law says that fireworks are best left to those who have a permit, but national retailers are ignoring that message.

Each year as the Fourth of July approaches, the State Fire Marshal’s office makes trips around the state explaining the dangers of consumer fireworks. At the same time, New Hampshire retailers are paying for billboard space and direct mail catalogs, trying to lure people north before the holiday.

“They are able because of current laws in the commonwealth to advertise in our states,” state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said. “(But) there is no legal way to bring fireworks that are bought in a state where fireworks are legal into Massachusetts.”

Phantom Fireworks, a national chain with stores in Londonderry and Seabrook, N.H., has mailed brochures to South Shore homes in recent weeks, peddling their wares to residents who cannot use them.

“We send them all across the nation. It’s not illegal to advertise anywhere,” said Mary McCluskey, store manager of the Phantom Fireworks in Londonderry.

McCluskey added that her employees have no way of knowing how fireworks will be used once they leave the store. They do perform ID checks when customers come in to see if they are over 21, the minimum age to buy fireworks in the Granite State, but do not deny out-of-state customers from making a purchase.

“A lot of our customers come up here and shoot them off in New Hampshire,” she said.

Coan remains irked by the marketing campaigns and strategies of national fireworks retailers, which he believes target youths.

“The position that we take in Massachusetts is that we do not agree with the national manufacturers and there marketing campaign that there is safety in consumer fireworks,” Coan said.

Part of the problem is that some fireworks aren’t perceived as unsafe, Coan said. The average sparkler burns at 1,800 degrees, hot enough to cause serious burns, but the Fourth of July staple has a harmless image.

“Even that can very rapidly turn a nice recreational event into a quick trip to the hospital,” Coan said.

Still, the Massachusetts practice of driving to New Hampshire and bringing fireworks back is likely to continue as long as the Fourth of July tradition.

“It’s probably something we’re going to have to deal with,” Coan said. “We’ve dealt with it for a long time and, we’re probably going to continue to.”

Adam Riglian may be reached at