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July 4, 2013 - 10:33pm

Appearance of sky lantern prompts City Fire to warn against illegal device

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire.

A sky lantern may look pretty, but firefighters warn they're potentially dangerous and also outlawed in New York.

Tonight, one floated over the City of Batavia Fire Hall that narrowly missed landing on the roof of Saint Mary's.

"Should this unattended fire in the sky have landed on the roof of the church or surrounding buildings it could have caused significant damage," said the department in a press release about the incident.

Firefighters retrieved the lantern and extinguished the still-burning fire.

"We ask that all residents discontinue the use of 'sky lanterns' so they and their neighbors can enjoy a safe 4th of July," the release said.

PDF: A safety alert about sky lanterns.

PHOTO: From the PDF, not the actual lantern from tonight's incident.

Bob Rathenburgh
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Probably came from Warsaw. They were setting them off one after another. Probably 15 with in 10 minutes.

Christopher Putnam
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Also, they are used by pyrotechnic companies, to test the wind at altitude, before setting off fireworks displays.

Also, pretty sure this is some alarmist BS, because all roofing materials are flame retardant.... have you ever tried to light a shingle on fire? It aint easy. Even if it does burn nicely once it gets going.

Ed Hartgrove
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Christopher, I'm hoping your comment (alarmist BS) was made in jest. How many houses out west burn, because of hot embers falling on them. One errant 'sky lantern' could result in untold damage, once it comes in contact with anything combustible - say, a farmer's barn, full of hay & livestock.

But then, of course, we can always count on the firefighters to put it out. Except for the 19 firefighters who recently lost their lives, fighting a fire that could possibly have been started by somebody getting their 5-minute thrill by sending a fire device up and watching it disappear to - uh-h-h, where? Once it's out of sight, people forget about it and go home to bed. They're the lucky ones - that is, unless maybe someone upwind of THEM sent some up, too.

Doug Yeomans
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Ed, even though it's probably not a good idea to launch sky lanterns in the city, the likelihood that they'll catch roof shingles on fire is pretty slim. With all the rain we've been getting, the chances of starting a grass or forest fire is also slim. If conditions had been dry and hot, then I'd be more concerned with grass fires than roof fires.

Raymond Richardson
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I've never known any pyrotechnic company to use a sky lantern to test the wind at any altitude before starting a fireworks show.

I was a member of a volunteer fire department for 20 years and we were responsible for the 4th of July fireworks show every year and never used one of these devices for testing wind. We used our better judgement concerning wind before setting off the show.

cj sruger
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Use this rule of thumb for NY, if its cool or fun its probably not legal. We probably wont be able to leave our houses in the near future in the name of saftey

Ed Hartgrove
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Yeah, Doug. I understand about the rain. Where I am in FL, every 200ft there's a canal. And, when it rains, half the roads become canals for a while.

Years ago, I FINALLY FINALLY convinced my wife (then) to go on a hot-air balloon trip. She said, "And first, I want to go over so-and-so's house, and then fly over whatchamacallit's house, and then blah-blah...". When I explained to her that you only go where the wind takes you, well... I quickly learned that sometimes you should just withhold SOME details. Never did get that ride. MY FAULT!

So it is with unmanned sky lanterns. Chances are ever so slim, but I still wouldn't want to think that MY 4-5 minute thrill caused someone to lose their livelihood or life. Maybe that comes with old age. I did a LOT of (unauthorizied) drag-racing when I was young & dumb, and, at 140mph, one stupid woodchuck, tire blowout, or whatever, could've wreaked havoc on families and friends (and innocent's, too). And for what? My 10-seconds of thrill and braggin' rights. I was VERY lucky. But, I knew too many that weren't so lucky.

Newton's third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
If we're smart enough, we'll try to discern consequences before we act. As I said, maybe that comes with old age.

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