Paper lanterns made of rice paper and bamboo, which float gracefully skyward when lit on fire until burning themselves out, are becoming popular amusements, but they are dangerous and are prohibited under state law, the East Hampton Town Fire Marshal’s office advised this week.
David Browne, the chief fire marshal, said in a release that numerous complaints about the lanterns have been received, and that several fires related to them have been reported.
According to Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who proposed a law banning the lanterns at a town board work session on Tuesday, one of them recently landed on the roof of the Albatross Motel in Montauk and started a fire. It was quickly squelched.
State law does not ban the lanterns outright, but categorizes them as “recreational fires,” which must be constantly attended. Therefore, Mr. Browne wrote in his memo, the use of sky lanterns is a violation of the state fire code, unless they are anchored or tethered.
Patrick Gunn, a town attorney who is the public safety division administrator, informed the town board on Tuesday that it could not adopt a law that differs from state law without first obtaining a variance from the state. Mr. Wilkinson suggested that the town pursue that permission. “It’s pretty, it’s a nice aesthetic, but I don’t think the risks associated are worth allowing them to continue,” he said.
Meanwhile, town fire marshals will begin enforcing the state fire code and citing those who release sky lanterns. Violations could result in a $1,000 fine, Mr. Gunn said on Tuesday.
Mr. Browne is recording a public service announcement that will be broadcast on the Sag Harbor radio station WLNG by the end of the week, Mr. Gunn told board members Tuesday, and will issue a written notice about the law to businesses selling the sky lanterns.