As the summer’s busy festival season gets underway, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office reminds Tennesseans that sky lanterns—which are unmanned airborne paper lanterns fueled by flame—can only be operated by licensed fireworks professionals.
Legislation passed in 2011 (TCA § 68-104-101(9) defines sky lanterns as special fireworks that can only be purchased and used by individuals with a professional license (such as a certified flame effect operator, certified outdoor display operator or certified proximate pyrotechnic operator).
The general public cannot purchase or use sky lanterns, which are also known as Chinese lanterns or wish lanterns. If sky lanterns are found in the possession of someone who does not have a professional license issued by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, sky lanterns can be confiscated and later destroyed.
These airborne lanterns can cause numerous hazards when they fall from the sky, including the ignition of combustible materials (grass, trees, rooftops, or other materials) as well as a possible livestock hazard when animals consume the remains of the lanterns. Earlier this month in North Carolina, fire crews battled a blaze started by a sky lantern atop a cell tower near the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, N.C.
This time of year also poses an additional hazard from sky lanterns because many areas of Tennessee might be experiencing drier conditions that may intensify the risk of damage from sky lanterns.
To ensure the safety of Tennesseans, the State Fire Marshal’s Office advises citizens to enjoy fireworks by attending public displays conducted by trained professionals.