Sky lanterns: Why they’re on the BSA’s no-fly list

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane …

It’s a floating ball of fire and fuel that could destroy acres of farmland or forest in a massive wildfire!

It’s a sky lantern — also known as a paper, floating, or Chinese lantern. Consider it a miniature, unmanned hot-air balloon.

Seeing several fill the night sky surely must be something to behold. (I’ve never seen them in person, but I did watch the Disney movie Tangled, so does that count?)

Beautiful as they may be, though, these tiny flame-mobiles have no place in Scouting, according to a new Health and Safety alert. Here’s why: 

Fires must be attended at all times

Letting go of a sky lantern is like leaving camp with a fire still burning in the fire pit. It’s a no-no.

Here’s what the BSA says:

Some units requesting to launch sky lanterns have been denied permission by local fire officials or other local authorities. Upon review, the release of a sky lantern also has been determined to conflict with fundamental Scouting safety principles that relate to fire management, in particular the Firem’n Chit certification and Unit Fireguard Chart, both of which require fires to be attended at all times.

Any damages could be your responsibility

Whether it’s a farm animal who eats the lantern remains and becomes sick or a fire that destroys part of someone’s property, any damage caused by a sky lantern could come out of your pocket.

The BSA notes:

Unfortunately, whoever launches the sky lantern and their chartered organization can be held financially responsible for damages caused. For this reason, the use of sky lanterns should not be a part of any Scouting activity. If you have any questions about how fires should be handled in your area, we suggest Scouts and leaders contact their local fire authority when planning an event.

What do you think?

What are some ways to create magical outdoor moments at night without sky lanterns? Share your ideas below.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.