Sky lanterns banned in Des Moines

By Shakira Ericksen

The night skies of Des Moines will no longer be graced by the presence of sky lanterns, as they were officially prohibited at the Feb. 28 City Council meeting.

Police and fire officials gave presentations showing the danger sky lanterns pose to property, both private and public. They pointed out that sky lanterns were not fireworks, rather they are recreational burning that violated the fire code.

A sky lantern, also known as Kongming lantern or Chinese lantern, is a small hot air balloon made of pa
per, with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended.

Sky lanterns increased in popularity in the Des Moines area began after the release of the Disney movie “Tangled. “

“I believe they (sky lanterns) should be regulated or have restrictions, it’s better than an outright ban,” said Councilmember Jeanette Burrage, who at first encouraged a No Vote.

Burrage said she was worried about taking away too many freedoms from people, although she conceded that they could be in some circumstances dangerous.

“You can’t control the wind,” said Mayor Dave Kaplan.

Many of the council members expressed worry that because sky lanterns are released into the sky, it’s impossible to know where they might land.

“They’re magnificently beautiful to look at, but they cause fires,” said Councilmember Bob Sheckler.

“Sometimes we have to look at the other side and see the danger of it.”

Sheckler said one might have a different view on the beauty of sky lanterns if one burned a house down.

Councilmember Melissa Musser also stressed protection of property.

“I believe totally in freedom, but I also believe in being responsible with that freedom,” said Councilmember Carmen Scott. “It’s foolish and irresponsible.”

The ordinance specifically prohibiting the use of sky lanterns was passed 5-1, with Burrage opposing it.

Councilmember Dan Caldwell was not present for the meeting.

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