Illegal fireworks in Boston ignite a cry of protest in Milton

A booming problem in Boston has now roared its way into Milton.

Noisy illegal fireworks in Mattapan are seemingly louder and more frequent this summer than in previous years, and the displays have sparked complaints from Milton suburbanites who live just over the town line.

“It’s dangerous and frightening when you have homes surrounding these fireworks, and dry leaves and woods nearby that are vulnerable to catching fire from fireworks gone astray,” said Ada Rosmarin, a Columbine Road resident. “I like fireworks when they’re done by people who are experienced with setting them off in public places. But I worry for people’s safety when they’re being set off in the neighborhoods.”


Boston Police said that they were unsure whether fireworks use has swelled tangibly in Mattapan this summer, but that they usually arrest anyone found with the potentially dangerous devices.

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Milton police say there has been an uptick in not just the frequency, but also in the size of the illegal displays, but are unsure why. The problem became so pervasive that Milton Police Chief Richard Wells appeared before the Board of Selectmen last Wednesday to address the issue.

“This year, they’re setting off significantly larger, almost commercial-grade fireworks,” Wells said last week in an interview. “They’ll only shoot off a few at a time, but they’re big ones and you can hear them in Milton. I’ve heard it at my house, and it’s woken me up. It can be startling.”

Wells said people in many communities in Massachusetts set off small-scale fireworks and firecrackers as Fourth of July festivities near each summer. But this year the complaints started in late May, more than a month before illegal launches normally start. The Milton Police Department has received about two dozen complaints in the past month from locals about the noise, Wells said, as the sudden booming late at night startles residents or wakes them up.

“This is something new that surfaced this year that doesn’t usually happen, but we don’t know the underlying cause of why individuals have chosen to do this,” Wells said, noting that he is working with Boston Police to quell the issue. “It’s not as simple as having a meeting and telling them to stop, and it goes away.”


Since the fireworks are launched from Mattapan, Milton authorities face challenges in catching the perpetrators, as the Boston neighborhood lies outside their jurisdiction and Boston Police are swamped with responding to more serious crimes.

“Mattapan can be a very busy district, and they sometimes deal with multiple incidents at once,” Wells said. “This is only one piece of a much bigger pie that they deal with every night. They’re doing the best they can on top of all the other calls in that district.”

In light of Milton’s complaints, Wells said he has parked in Mattapan’s prime problem areas on some recent nights. But even when he heard fireworks being launched near him, the perpetrators managed to elude authorities.

“It’s very hit or miss — it’s not as if they’re there in the same spot at the same time every night,” he said. “But then they’ll come a few nights, shoot off some fireworks, and leave. It’s not a very simple thing.”

Boston Police Department representatives said there was no data available to confirm if Mattapan has seen a surge in firework activity this year. But Boston police spokesman James Kenneally said the use of fireworks usually rises in Boston during the warmer summer months, particularly around the Fourth of July.


“We get a lot of calls on them, but we deal with them as they come in,” Kenneally said. “We are well aware that fireworks are out there around this time of year, and that they pose a safety risk. Anyone found with them or in possession will be taken away and charged accordingly.”

‘This year, they’re setting off significantly larger, almost commercial-grade fireworks.’

The issue gained traction publicly after a resident wrote a letter to the editor in mid-June that appeared on the My Town Matters blog, which follows local Milton events.

“I was glad to see other people shared my concerns,” Rosmarin, who commented on the original letter, said over the phone.

Cindy Christiansen, a Town Meeting member who also commented on the blog, lives on the opposite side of town — near Quincy — and said she has also noticed the steady stream of banging fireworks this year.

“When I’m going to bed around midnight, I’ll hear the fireworks and they make me jump,” she said. “My first thought is wondering if these are gunshots. Even though they’re just fireworks, it does make you afraid. And the drier it gets, the worse it will be as far as fires go.”

She said the fireworks are just the newest item on a long list of other noisy issues Milton must face, from low-flying airplanes to the crackle of Curry College loudspeakers.

“There are so many problems with noise pollution in this town, and nobody seems to want to do anything about it,” she said.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at