What goes up, must come down.
A recent launching of paper lanterns near Anchorage as part of a church sponsored event to raise awareness for victims of domestic violence (“Shed the Light“) drew some unintended attention from law enforcement and even rerouted air traffic at Merrill Field (MRI), a local Anchorage airport.
Local police and fire officials reported no accidents, citations or injuries due to this occurrence, but reminded the organizers and public that the use of such lanterns is illegal under state statute and municipal ordinance, according to the Anchorage Fire Department.
Sky lanterns aka paper “wish lanterns” or “floating lanterns” are often banned under state statutes and local ordinances, and even defined as “fireworks” due to the inherent nature of their construction — flying object + fire.
For example, in my home state of Illinois, they are illegal to sell, store, and use (launch) due to the Fireworks Regulation Act of Illinois, (425 ILCS 30/1 et seq.) which states in part that “fireworks shall mean and include… the type of balloons which require fire underneath to propel the same.” According to the Illinois State Fire Marshall, sky lanterns have been known to cause residential and forest fires, as well as other losses. In addition, they represent a hazard to aviation and a distraction to vehicular traffic.
The National Association of State Fire Marshals has supported state-level bans on the sale and use of sky lanterns (in 2013), noting that:
[A]t least 25 states and many jurisdictions have banned sky lanterns outright or put controls on their use, and many more are planning such action in the future. In general, statutes have been promulgated specifically for sky lanterns as products, or they have been interpreted as falling under the authority of fireworks regulations, the state fire code, or open flame restrictions during times of dry/hazardous weather conditions, wildland fire hazard, and in proximity to buildings.
They can be elegant and fun, but they probably are not a bright idea!
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