OMP friend and neighbor Dawn Asava sent me a note that she recently found three Chinese lanterns on her property near Bowers Harbor. One lantern was burned pretty badly, and she found them in some very dry areas, including an area with dry leaves.
Sometimes called “sky lanterns,” “fire balloons,” or Kongming lanterns, these are those small hot air balloons made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended.
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They’re often launched as part of festivities or remembrances, but since we’re talking paper combined with fire, landing who knows where – like Dawn’s dry leaves – they can be dangerous, too.
I Googled around and found some info about Chinese lanterns. In typical designs, as long as the lantern stays upright, the paper won’t get hot enough to ignite. But if the lantern is tilted – say by wind or bumping into something – it might catch fire while still in the air. The paper will usually burn in a few seconds, but the flame source might remain until it hits the ground, making it a fire hazard. And we all know how dry and hot it’s been on the Old Mission Peninsula this summer.
Chinese lanterns also pose a danger to aircraft, and while some lanterns are made of biodegradable material, the ones with a thin wire frame will rust away slowly on the ground, causing a hazard to animals.
Just think about this: On July 1, 2013, the largest fire ever in the West Midlands of England, involving 100,000 tons of recycling material and causing an estimated six million pounds worth of damage, was started by a Chinese lantern at a plastics recycling plant.
Chinese lanterns are beautiful – have you seen that scene in the movie “Tangled”? Gives me goosebumps – but consider alternatives, like floating flowers or petals down a river or sending giant bubbles into the wind, like these eco-friendly ones from Dr. Zigs. Check out some other ideas here.
Your neighbors and the Peninsula Fire Department thank you.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb