Sky lanterns ignite cell phone tower

Cell tower fire sky lantern
Cell tower fire ignited by sky lanterns. Screen grab from video at TWCNews.

What could possibly go wrong when dozens of sky lanterns or fire balloons were released from the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, North Carolina last weekend? The wind blew some of them into a cell phone tower, igniting it just out of range of the water cannon on the Union Road Volunteer Fire Department’s fire engine.

Below is an excerpt from TWCNews, which has a video with more images of the tower fire:

“…My first thought was I hope this is not what’s fixing to happen. But it wound up happening. Our second thought was how are we going to get that far up to put the fire up,” said Union Road Volunteer Fire Department Chief Craig Huffstetler.

The Union Road Fire Department was already on hand in case there were any injuries or brush fires. But the cell phone tower quickly threw several challenges their way. Their ladder truck couldn’t reach all the way up to the fire, there were no fire hydrants nearby, and they’d never fought a fire quite like this one.

It took 20 firefighters, nearly 6,000 gallons of water, help from a neighboring department. And maybe a little luck to finally get the fire out.

These dangerous devices have started dozens of fires and are illegal in at least 25 states. Entire countries have banned them, including Austria, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Spain, Germany and parts of Canada. The National Association of State Fire Marshals adopted a resolution in 2013 urging states to ban the sale and use of the devices.

The other 25 states need to get off their collective asses and ban these damn things.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

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