Chinese lanterns, also called sky lanterns, are small balloons made of paper that fly because of heated air from a small fire underneath. These devices are a prime source of “UFO” sightings since they move with the winds aloft and can accelerate unexpectedly but also remain seemingly stationary for a bit, confusing the witness. They are often released in celebrations and often in groups. Because of the open flame, when they land they have a potential to catch things on fire. This has caused concern from many communities in the US and UK that have banned release of sky lanterns.
Allen Park (Michigan) began weighing an ordinance in late spring after several city residents complained on city social media pages about the flame-powered, air-traveling lanterns, also known as Chinese lanterns, landing on their properties.
While the Allen Park Fire Department has yet to receive a call to put out a fire started by a sky lantern, officials fear it’s only a matter of time.
“It’s irresponsible to let an incendiary device go up when you don’t have control over where it lands,” Allen Park Fire Marshal Edward Cann said.
Banned in the state of Illinois, Michigan still allows them and they are popular sellers. Some people dispute they are a problem and others say it’s just a matter of time before a lit lantern starts a structure fire or ignites vegetation during a dry spell. In any case, those using fireworks or other lit objects need to be especially careful on windy days or during a time of high wildfire risk.
Addition: In 2014, a fire was reported to cause minor damage, the result of one of these objects landing on a roof in Lancaster, PA. (Tip: AmbrosiaX)