BOUNTIFUL — They light up the sky and are growing in popularity, but Chinese lanterns could soon become illegal in Utah.
The State Fire Marshal said the current law is vague, but he wants to make it clear that they do pose a real fire danger.
The fire code would not take effect until the summer. State Fire Marshal Coy Porter said he's confident the new fire code will pass. It is part of a bill sponsored by Rep. James Dunnigan.
One group is planning to launch 200 lanterns over Utah Lake for the Chinese New Year, re-creating a scene from a popular Disney movie, "Tangled."
"It's always been on my bucket list, to see it or be a part of it," said Ty Imamura, who is planning the event.
Porter said since the movie's release, the use of Chinese lanterns has been increasing.
"Sky lanterns as they're done in the Disney movies will be illegal in the state of Utah," Porter said. "The biggest problem is just if they're slightly damaged, there's a small rip, they don't get the elevation, they can still come down while the flame is still going in there."
That's why he said a new fire code adopted by the state legislature will specifically outlaw Chinese lanterns.
He said merchants that sell them seem to be on the same page, since they aren't a major revenue source.
"Even though they look wonderful, can be symbolic, have a lot of meaning, we just want to make sure that they don't have an incident that would cause a lot of damage to property," Porter said.
Imamura said he understands the safety concerns and doesn't begrudge the proposed changes.
"In the summer, I could see maybe it's a problem," Imamura said. "You can't really control it."
He said his Chinese New Year plans are still on and about a couple of hundred people are expected to be there.