It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but sending up as many as 20 burning “sky lanterns” last Thursday evening was dangerous and reckless, according to the Campbell River Fire Department.
Sky lanterns – also known as Chinese lanterns – are small hot air balloons made of paper with an opening on the bottom where a small fire, such as a candle, is suspended. They are typically launched for play or as part of a festivity.
“The release of these open flame devices during the extreme fire conditions and fire bans in place is extremely dangerous and reckless,” Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Doherty says. “We are extremely fortunate that we were not faced with multiple fires spread across a large area of the city (that) night.”
The fire department received reports of as many as 20 sky lanterns being released into the air on the beach in front of Dahl Road. A number of these lanterns travelled a fair distance inland before coming down and landing in residential areas and remote areas of brush. One sky lantern was reported landing on a cedar shake roof and fortunately did not catch the roof on fire, Doherty said.
Firefighters attended this incident shortly after another call on a busy Thursday evening.
The first incident occurred shortly after 6:30 p.m., when crews responded to a report of smoke at the yard waste disposal site on Willis Road. On arrival, crews found a fire burning deep within in a large pile of yard waste and mulch. Crews were able to bring the fire under control quickly with the assistance of two local excavators and site personnel. The cause of the fire appears to be spontaneous combustion due to the heat generated by the decomposition of materials in the large pile.
Shortly after crews were mopping up from this fire, the sky lantern call came in. Fire Chief Ian Baikie said releasing these lanterns is prohibited because they’re not on the list of approved reasons for burning during the current provincial campfire ban.
Later that night, shortly after 2 a.m., crews responded to a recycling bin on fire at the Sportsplex. The bin was fully involved on arrival and was extinguished quickly by crews. This fire appears to be suspicious and is under investigation by RCMP.
As the hot dry weather conditions continue, Campbell River Fire Rescue remind the public to use caution, report any smoke sightings immediately and check the local fire restrictions and bans in place.