Lighting lanterns ‘like throwing matches’


Using Chinese lanterns is like throwing live matches around and hoping nothing catches fire, the Otago Rural Fire Authority says.

It’s worried people in Queenstown will ignore a fire ban and light lanterns to celebrate Chinese New Year – which could easily start a fire.

Deputy principal officer Jamie Cowan, of Queenstown, is warning residents not to use lanterns this summer and is worried about a growth in their popularity.

“In the wrong conditions they could easily cause fires. They are simply not suitable for Otago’s environment.”

His concern was heightened after local shops indicated they were sold out of the lanterns, which are often used to mark Chinese New Year.

Locals and visitors need to be aware of the fire bans and possible dangers, he says.

“It is illegal to light a fire or cause a fire to be lit in the open air. This includes sky lanterns, also known as Chinese or flying lanterns. If you start one you could be putting lives at risk and will be liable for the costs involved.”

Given the nature of the region’s terrain, he says costs could easily run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Cowan explains the lanterns work on the same principle as a hot air balloon and are powered by a tea-light candle which heats up the air inside the paper lantern.

They can fly for kilometres and reach heights of around 800m.

Both Central Otago and the Southern Lakes zones are now in a prohibited fire season.

Otago Daily Times