Sky Lanterns Yanked From Wichita Fireworks Stands

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Wichita Fire Department is warning citizens about a popular item sold in local fireworks stands. Sky lanterns are dangerous and illegal, according to WFD.

The devices are basically small hot air balloons designed to be held in your hand until they are buoyant enough to rise into the air. But the items ended up in local fireworks stands by mistake this year.

The sky lanterns have been selling for about $4.00, but they won't be selling at all at the local Wholesale Fireworks stands. The shelves are now bare. After discovering the lanterns on the shelves at several Wichita fireworks stands, the fire department ordered all of them pulled. Today, we put Fire Marshal Brad Crisp to the test in order to demonstrate the problems with the product.

"I'm just waiting for it to fill up and tug away from me, so as soon as it does, I'll let it go," Crisp said after he lit the flame source at the bottom of the balloon.

Because of the wind, however, Crisp couldn't get the balloon to fill up. The sides were clearly starting to burn. So we grabbed another one and this time got it into the air, but not for very long.

"Let's see if I can get it to go," Crisp says as the sky lantern drifts up a few feet before the wind wreaks havoc on it.

The lantern flew around erratically before lifting up a little more and then coming back down to the ground on a nearby baseball diamond. The flame at the bottom was still burning openly.

At the Wholesale Fireworks stand at 13th and West Street, operator Daniel Darrow said the items were popular sellers.

"The issue I have is that it was OK until we started selling them again and then all of a sudden, it's not OK," Darrow said. "A little heads up a little earlier would be good so we didn't have them and start selling them."

One customer told us she bought a sky lantern last year, but won't do it again.

"We had lit it off and it didn't take off right away and it was going up and down and just about hit our house," said Melissa Patchen. It hit another house and went over to a field and we lost sight of it."

Crisp, meanwhile, says he's not trying to stifle the fireworks season, but the safety of everyone is the main priority.

"I don't want to discourage anyone from using fireworks," he said. "I think it's a part of the 4th of July and it's part of that history and part of that culture. People are going to use fireworks. We ask that they do it safely."

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