Releasing Floating Sky Lanterns Is Illegal, Says Seattle Fire
By Shelly Najjar
Made popular by increased awareness of global festivals and the movie Tangled, releasing floating sky lanterns seems like a great summer activity, but it’s actually an illegal act that could endanger other people.
Lt. Harold Webb, a representative from the Seattle Fire Department, says the department is “very concerned about the public’s safety when it comes to these airborne open flame devices. The lanterns pose a real risk to the public when it comes to fire injuries and also a bigger risk to property.”
“In the City of Seattle, the use of “Sky Lanterns” are not allowed under the Seattle Fire Code (SFC),” says Webb. He elaborates that since they “are considered recreational fires under Section 302.1 of the SFC […] they need to be ‘constantly attended until the fire is extinguished…’ and that they ‘shall not be conducted within 25 feet of a structure or combustible material.’” Since a sky lantern floats away from you, it becomes an open, unattended flame with the potential to start a much larger fire.
Despite this, you may still see sky lanterns for sale, because “except in a few locations, the sale of ‘Sky Lanterns’ have not been prohibited,” says Dana Catts, education specialist with the Seattle Fire Department. Don’t be deceived, this doesn’t give you permission to release the lanterns.
“A violation of the [Seattle Fire Code] carries criminal and or civil penalties,” Webb says. “The Seattle Fire Department has stopped the lantern uses at several events in the past. Due to the risk to the public and property, the Fire Department will continue to ban the use of the airborne devices.”
Seattle isn’t alone in this type of regulation. Other Washington areas like the City of Mukilteo and Kittitas County have regulations explicitly about sky lanterns, and many states and even entire countries have banned the lanterns due to the fire risk. Similar activities like luminaries, fireworks, and sparklers are also discouraged or illegal in Seattle.
So what can you do instead? Catts encourages people to do an online search for alternative activities that don’t involve fire. “Bubbles are always fun,” she suggested. “They have special bubble wands to make giant bubbles.” Other ideas from Google searching include ribbons and streamers, pinwheels, fiber optic wands, glow sticks, folding origami, and floating native flowers (not invasive species).
(The idea for this post was first published on The Goal List)