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CAL FIRE says you must obtain a permit to fly a sky lantern after the third fire in 10 years breaks out

CAL FIRE crew respond to vegetation fire on 09-04-23
Posted at 5:40 AM, Sep 06, 2023

A sky lantern caused a small fire Monday night, marking the third time in 10 years a vegetation fire has been caused from one in San Luis Obispo County.

A fire caused by a sky lantern on the hillside above Pirates Cove in 2012 nearly destroyed emergency communication facilities and phone towers. It's also the reason the County Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance, banning them in 2013.

The fire burned half of an acre of brush before firefighters were able to fully contain it around 11 p.m. Monday night.

"People think that the beach itself is very safe to do things like that," CAL FIRE Battalion Chief, Paul Lee said. "It's not. The onshore winds blow that into the coastal hills, and into the coastal valleys. They can travel a great distance.”

Should the lantern have traveled a bit further last night, Lee says fire crews would have faced a much larger fire. If the lantern missed the ridge and landed in the next ridge over, it would have landed two to three miles into the Irish Hills Natural Reserve. The Irish Hills are remote and very difficult to get back into.

“What we found with the sky lanterns is that when they're released, there is zero control," Lee added. "So, wherever the wind takes it and wherever it lands, it's completely outside of that person's control.”

If you wish to fly a sky lantern a permit is required. Your flame must be tethered, or use a light instead.

“LED lights are great," Lee said. "We still are going to want it tethered because when that lantern goes up, it's going to fall someplace and be basically litter and we want to be able to recover that stuff. So there are ways to go about doing it, especially for ceremonial use.”

Sky lanterns are prohibited in San Luis Obispo County. A citation was issued to the family that caused the fire Monday night between Olde Port Inn and Flying Flags Avila Beach RV Park.

If you see something, say something. Always be cognizant when lighting a flame as we are still in peak fire season.