Fire Threats from Sky Lantern’s

July 6, 2014 In Articles, Training

The summer fire season is upon us, and the dangers of
uncontrolled fires increase in the wildland urban interface and
in neighborhoods where dry vegetation vulnerability is high.
While we commonly regulate outdoor fires, smoking and
other ignition sources through the model fire codes, sky
lanterns are another potential threat to cause unintended
ignitions in these vegetated areas. While beautiful in flight
— as shown on a variety of television advertisements — they
create a threat since they contain uncontrolled fire sources left
literally to the vagaries of wind and terrain.
Also known as kongming lanterns, wish lanterns, sky candles,
or fire balloons, sky lanterns consist of a paper or fabric
balloon that traps heated air produced by an open flame
device, usually a candle. The open flame device often is
connected to the balloon by a wire frame.
While these devices may not be specifically prohibited or allowed by the model fire codes, fire safety regulations
do give the code official the authority to regulate open flames both indoors and outdoors. One code section, for
example, specifically states “No person shall throw or place, or cause to be thrown or placed, a lighted match,
cigar, cigarette, matches or other flaming or glowing substance or object on any surface or article where it can
cause an unwanted fire.”1
The code official also has the authority through the operational permitting process to regulate open flame devices.
The code official can apply conditions to the permit, thereby controlling the release and recovery of these devices,
as well as limit their use when environmental conditions make fires particularly liable. Such conditions might
include:
• Launch sites that are minimum distances from combustible buildings or vegetation.
• Launch conditions that are limited by wind speed and direction that might minimize long-distance drift.
• Launch conditions that can occur only in periods of high humidity when the likelihood of igniting vegetation
is less.
• Standby fire protection equipment such as portable fire extinguishers or garden hoses equipped with spray nozzles.

Sky Lanterns