For centuries, in many parts of the world, sky lanterns have been launched for play or as part of long-established festivals. That tradition continues; their popularity has increased in recent years. However, sky lanterns pose a serious fire safety hazard and their use is prohibited by NFPA code requirement. The NFPA 1: Fire Code, 2015 Edition states the following: The use of unmanned, free-floating sky lanterns and similar devices utilizing an open flame shall be prohibited.
Sky lanterns are made of oiled rice paper with a bamboo frame, materials that can easily catch on fire. A candle or wax fuel cell is used with the device. The lit flame heats the inside of the lantern, causing it to rise into the air. Once lit and airborne, the lantern can travel more than a mile. Wind can affect it, blowing the sides, forcing hot air out and sending the flaming lantern to the ground. These lanterns have the potential to start a fire. In late February, a sky lantern released during a park event in Wisconsin, burned more than 15 acres in about an hour.
NFPA’s Sky Lanterns Safety tip sheets provide more information on the hazards of sky lanterns and their prohibition.