The most likely cause of a fire that damaged a warehouse in the Philippines is a sky lantern, a small balloon carried aloft by burning fuel attached to its base.
According to the Cebu Daily News, Felix Suico Jr., head of the Bantay Mandaue Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, said the fire may have been caused by a lighted sky lantern that landed on the warehouse’s roof. The fire was reported at 12:27 a.m. on January 1. The building was used to store electrical supplies.
Several other fires that broke out at around midnight on New Year’s Eve burned 400 homes in Barangays Guizo and Maguikay, Mandaue City. The causes of those fires have not been released.
A rancher in the United Kingdom is blaming the death of one of his cows on a sky lantern that landed on his property. These devices are small hot air balloons lofted into the air by fuel burning at the base.
…Last year, David Rowlands of Grange Farm, Mickle Trifford, Chester, experienced the problems of sky lanterns first hand. The Rowlands family lost one of their pedigree Red Poll breeding cows to a sky lantern around bonfire night.
“She started staggering, so we treated her for staggers, but obviously it had no effect.
“The vets assessment was that the oesophagus had been pierced by wire from one of these wretched things, leading to asphyxiation,” Mr Rowlands explained.
“These sky lanterns have either wire or bamboo frames and essentially they’re cannon balls floating.
“Eventually they land and if they land in a field with cattle grazing, the cattle will investigate.
“The animals are inclined to chew things like this, the wire will splinter, penetrating their throats and causing swelling. It leads to asphyxiation, a horrible death taking about 48 hours.”
“How an animal-loving nation can tolerate this sort of risk to cattle and sheep baffles me,” he toldFarmers Weekly.
But Mr Rowlands hopes if more councils ban them it will help as he says he doesn’t think it is deliberate nastiness of the people releasing them, more that they simply don’t understand the risks.
“Our cows don’t think they are worth the risk,” he said…
Hundreds of sky lanterns released at an October 15 event 18 miles north of downtown Denver caused problems for at least one landowner five miles away from where they were launched.
A company that makes money by hosting “festivals” where they charge participants who release the small hot air balloons that are lofted by burning fuel at their base, organized an event at the Colorado National Speedway adjacent to Interstate 25.
Below is an excerpt from an article at KDVR:
…”We were watching it not really knowing what it was, but liking it. It was beautiful,” Lauren Gueswel said. She said the view was stunning, until close to 200 lanterns landed on her 40-acre farmland.
“I was extremely concerned and a little angry,” Gueswel said.
Gueswel and her husband chased after the debris while also trying to calm spooked animals.
“Terrified. They were absolutely terrified,” Gueswel said.
The lanterns blew nearly five miles to end up on her property. The couple was worried about dry patches of grass.
“Several of these were landing with embers still burning,” Gueswel said.
A spokesman for the event said the lanterns never hit the ground still hot. Several organizers from the event visited the farm to help pick up the leftover lanterns. They said cleanup is always protocol…
The company that organized the incident, Lantern Fest, had planned to continue releasing the fire-carrying devices on a second night, but it was cancelled due to strong winds. But, they are planning two other events in Colorado — November 5 in Colorado Springs and another one November 6 at the Colorado National Speedway north of Denver.
The company is also planning large-scale releases of the fire balloons near Phoenix, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Albuquerque, El Paso, Austin, Dallas, South Padre Island, Spokane, and Boise.
And in Yates County, New York, Sheriff Ron Spike, thinks a sky lantern caused a fire that burned a portion of a boat dock on Keuka Lake July 4. Boaters on the lake notified residents who were able to suppress the fire by dumping lake water onto it.
…Investigation by deputies and the fire chief concluded that based on debris at the scene that a sky lantern someone had launched to celebrate July 4 had landed on the dock, causing the fire. Spike says the property owner is William Goulburn, of Rochester, and the damage is over $1,000…
Sky lanterns are made with plastic or lightweight paper and are lifted into the air when burning material is ignited at the base making it lighter than air. They can travel for more than a mile, whichever way the wind blows. Sometimes the fuel is still burning when the device contacts a structure, a tree, or lands on the ground. Usually they are not retrieved and become someone else’s trash.
The dangerous devices are banned in 29 states and many counties and cities.
A sky lantern recently landed on a fire chief’s roof in York Beach, Maine. For years Chief David Bridges has been trying to educate the public about the lantern law and the fire dangers they pose. He believes it is a common misconception that Maine legalized the lanterns after legalizing fireworks in 2012. However they are banned in Maine and in 28 other states.
At least two private companies are in the business of charging admission to organized events where the participants can ignite and release sky lanterns.
The devices are banned in 29 states primarily because there have been many fires, both wildland and structure fires, ignited when the flame that heats the air in the paper enclosure can still be active when the lantern lands back on the ground. Or there can be a malfunction, such as the paper envelope catching fire, a gust of wind driving it to the ground, or it being hung up in a tree.
There is also the problem of litter. Every lantern released becomes someone else’s garbage. While one event organizer claims they retrieve 100 percent of the devices, it seems unlikely that if hundreds or thousands are lofted and then transported by the wind that all of them could be picked up. Some of the events allow releases over a period of severaL hours. The direction the wind is blowing is frequently not consistent for extended periods of time, which would lead to the lanterns being sprayed over a large area.
We discovered two companies that organize sky lantern releases. Rise, or RiseFestival, has two events listed on their website — October 7 and 8, 2016 at Mojave, Nevada. Their fees are $89 to $129 for adults, and $59 to $69 for children 3-10 years old. Nevada is one of the 21 states that have not yet banned sky lanterns.
The other company, LanternFest, has 19 events scheduled, with four of them planned in states where releasing them is illegal. We contacted LanternFest and were told by Kiara:
Our events are legal and fully permitted through the city, venue, and fire department at every event location! We are permitted much like a large firework show, and we work closely with your local Fire Marshal to ensure this event is safe.
The company’s next lantern release will be June 11, 2016 in El Dorado State Park in Kansas, approximately 25 miles northeast of Wichita. The devices are banned in some jurisdictions in the state, but not state-wide. Legislation banning them was introduced in 2014 but it died in committee.
Seth Turner, the manager of the park, said the company has a special event permit for the sky lantern release. He said in 2015 6,000 people attended a similar event. The company has stated they will retrieve the lanterns, but when asked how many they were able to pickup last year, Mr. Turner said, “I have no idea”. He said they travel for about a mile and a half through the air and they have not started any vegetation fires to his knowledge. We asked if he was concerned about the the threat of fires, and he said “That is something we monitor”. The park is about three miles long and an average of about 0.8 miles wide. The west end is a peninsula into a lake and is buffered by about a half mile of water. East of the park is private land.
We called the local Butler County sheriff’s office to ask if they had any concerns about the litter or a risk of wildfire near El Dorado State Park, but we were told the Sheriff and everyone in the office will be off until Tuesday May 31 for the holiday weekend.
In addition to the above events in Kansas and Nevada planned by the two companies, LanternFest is planning lantern releases later this year in Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.