Los Osos bans sky lanterns because of fire danger

dsneed@thetribunenews.comJuly 18, 2013 

The Los Osos Community Services District has prohibited the use of sky lanterns within the community, mirroring an ordinance passed by county supervisors earlier this year.

The ordinance prohibiting the devices due to the fire danger they pose will go into effect in August. Sky lanterns are airborne paper lanterns similar to a miniature hot air balloon. They are sometimes called Chinese lanterns.

Sky lanterns have recently become popular at weddings, memorials and other events, fire officials say. They consist of a fuel cell or candle that fills the balloon with hot air, making them float off into the sky.

“What seems harmless is not, and these lanterns pose a serious threat to the citizens, property and wildland areas of San Luis Obispo County,” said Cal Fire Chief Rob Lewin.

A sky lantern was determined to be the cause of a fire that occurred above Shell Beach last summer on Ontario Ridge above Pirates Cove. The fire burned several acres and nearly destroyed cell phone towers and emergency communications equipment on the ridge.

Similar prohibitions are in the works for Avila Beach and Pismo Beach, said Laurie Donnelly, acting fire marshal. An ordinance banning sky lanterns in county areas outside the incorporated cities and fire districts was approved by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in May.

The Los Osos ordinance allows for the use of sky lanterns in some religious and cultural ceremonies as long as approval is obtained from Cal Fire. In these cases, the balloons must be tethered and monitored.

Violations of the ordinance are subject to a misdemeanor citation and liability for fire suppression costs.

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