Easthampton Fire Chief: No sky lanterns, please

By JACK SUNTRUP

@JackSuntrup

Published: 04-26-2017 12:18 PM

EASTHAMPTON — For the love of Easthampton, please don’t release sky lanterns.

That firm request comes from Fire Chief David Mottor, who said Wednesday he received an email asking if it was OK to launch what are essentially tiny, unmanned air balloons at a remembrance ceremony for someone’s deceased loved one.

The lanterns harness the energy of a flame suspended below a paper frame to propel the device upward. The catch, of course, is that there are no tiny people to guide the sky lanterns, and they move with the whim of the wind.

The lanterns were invented in China and originally used as signals during wars. These days, their use has diffused to the United States, where they are employed for visual effects at weddings or memorials.

But not in Easthampton.

“The short answer is no, they are not allowed,” Mottor wrote in a Tuesday night Facebook post.

And he didn’t mince words.

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“You are launching a fire into the air with no control over where it goes and where it lands,” Mottor wrote. “This makes a very unsafe situation. It could land on a porch and start a house on fire or it could start a brush fire.”

He did admit they are pretty cool.

“While I admit they are nice to watch, just think of what could happen once you launch the fire into sky,” he wrote. “Please refrain from using them.”

In an interview with the Gazette Wednesday morning, the fire chief said the Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code prohibits the use of the lanterns. The regulation, in effect since 2015, bans the devices unless local authorities give prior approval.

The National Association of State Fire Marshals also takes a hard line against the lanterns, adopting a resolution in August 2013 against them.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.

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