Freedom – July 31, 2008 – Chinese Flying Lanterns are exotic and beautiful, but after a small fire at Camp Huckins last week, one area store has decided they’re not safe enough to sell. Kelly Consoli, owner of the Blue Moon Country Store on Ossipee Lake Road, pulled the lanterns from her shelves after Huckins director Jody Skelton reported one of the devices had landed on the roof of a cabin and set pine needles ablaze.
Staff members, who watched the balloon-like lantern float over the camp at around 10 p.m., quickly extinguished the blaze and there was no damage. But Skelton said she wanted people to know about the potential danger.
“It was like a flying bomb and you cannot control where it is going to go,” she wrote in an email to Ossipee Lake Alliance.
“I just thought everyone on the lake should be aware of these, as I think people light them from their boat thinking that it is fun to watch.”
No one knows where the lantern was launched or whether it was purchased at Blue Moon, but after hearing Skelton’s story, Consoli banished the lanterns to storage.
“We bought them through our fireworks distributor and just started carrying them last month,” she told the Alliance. “Now we know they can be a problem. We’re in the woods here, and trees can catch on fire.”
Chinese Flying Lanterns, also known as Sky Lanterns, are sold in the U.S. online and in convenience stores as novelties for parties and special events. Made of paper, they’re carried aloft by hot air generated by a candle. When the flame dies out, the lantern sinks to the ground.
The problem is that lanterns can remain lit after they fall to earth. Fire chiefs in England warned about Sky Lanterns after one landed on the roof of Winchester Cathedral two years ago. The government of Malaysia prohibited their use within three miles of the country’s airports after dozens of lanterns interrupted air traffic last year, and this February the devices were banned in the Chinese city of Nanjing, capital of eastern Jiangsu province.
In most places, however, the lanterns are legal and can be purchased online and in local stores like Ted’s Discount on Route 16. Reached by phone, the owner of Ted’s said he was surprised and concerned about the Huckins incident, and said he would consider whether to remove the product from the store or make certain that buyers understand the potential dangers.
The manufacturers of the devices say the product is safe as long as common sense and good judgment are used. Instructions caution buyers to use the product only in an open area and to keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby. It also cautions against launching lanterns while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.