MANKATO — A moving musical scene in a 2010 Disney film is being credited for spawning several requests to launch sky lanterns in the city — and a warning from firefighters that the floating fire bags are illegal in Minnesota.
Deputy Public Safety Director Jeff Bengtson said he can see how the lanterns might create an enchanting sight as they rise into a dark sky. But they’re also a fire hazard because there is no way to control where they end up.
Sky lanterns are often made of paper, wire and a small piece of wood that burns easily or a candle. The gases from the burning wood or candle lift the lanterns into the air and they can float a mile or more before they come down again, Bengtson said.
An obvious concern is they could land on the roof of a house or some other building while the candle or wood is still burning. With as dry as it’s been, even having a burning lantern land in a grass or corn field could turn into a disaster.
There also have been reports that the wire used in some lanterns can be harmful to livestock if the lanterns are eaten after the fall into a pasture, Bengtson said.
“Our concern is once you light them, they go off into the wind and you have no way to control where they land,” he said. “There’s kind of a list of reasons they’re not allowed.
“The requests are coming more frequently, so we thought we would let people know they are not legal.”
Bengtson said the lanterns, also known as wish lanterns, are in scenes from the 2010 Disney film “Tangled,” a story based on the Rapunzel fairy tale. Scenes in the animated movie show the lanterns being released on Rapunzel’s birthday after she is captured and taken from her hometown, an event she eventually witnesses.
There have been about a half dozen recent requests from people organizing graduations, weddings, memorials and other events. Bengtson said there have been no reports of people launching the sky lanterns illegally.
They are easily available on the Internet, selling for about a dollar apiece. In states where they are not illegal, they are also available in stores.
The law that makes the lanterns illegal is the same law that makes exploding fireworks and fireworks that leave the ground illegal. The law specifically refers to “the type of balloons which require fire underneath to propel them.”