An ordinance prohibiting the ignition and launching of sky lanterns in San Luis Obispo County areas and fire districts will go into effect in 30 days. The County Board of Supervisors passed it yesterday.
A sky lantern, airborne paper lanterns, also known as “Chinese lantern,” is similar to a miniature hot air balloon, because it’s powered by a fuel cell or candle that heats the air, fills the balloon and makes the lantern fly up into the sky.
Chief Robert Lewin says “What seems harmless is not, and these lanterns pose a serious threat to the citizens, property, and wild land areas of San Luis Obispo County.”
Sky lanterns may have religious and cultural use, so the ordinance allows for one exception with the approval from CAL FIRE. In this case, the device must be monitored and tethered.
Violators may be issued a misdemeanor ticket and be liable for fire suppression costs.
A sky lantern was determined to be the cause of a wildfire in Shell Beach last summer. This fire burned several acres, damaged emergency communication facilities and cellular phone towers. It was extinguished within a few hours, and cost tens of thousands of dollars to suppress.