Fire lantern festival coming to Utah despite concerns

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A traveling fire lantern festival is coming to Utah next month despite concerns from residents and some apprehension from the state fire marshal.

The Lantern Fest is scheduled for Sept. 11-12 at the Bonneville Seabase about 40 miles west of Salt Lake City. The organization, which holds events around the country, uses the slogan, "Get ready to let your light shine."

"The reasons people go are always very personal — like someone passed away," said Amy Gessel, a representative with the Lantern Fest, according to the Deseret News (

Utah amended its fire code in 2013 to allow local city and county governments to prohibit fire lanterns — but stopped short of passing a blanket ban across the state, Utah Fire Marshal Coy Porter told The Associated Press. Officials and legislators decided it was best for local government officials to assess their own geography and situation.

The city of Grantsville, where this festival is happening, has chosen not to enact the ban.

Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall said he has received phone calls from residents worried about the lanterns causing a fire, but he said the city did testing before approving the festival that found the lanterns usually go only about 1,500 feet. If winds are strong, the lanterns don't fly at all, said Marshall, who is a firefighter.

"There's not a lot of vegetation there, so there's not a lot that can burn there," Marshall told the Deseret News. "We've run multiple tests out there lighting lanterns at different times."

The land where the festival will take place is barren. It is the same place where a Utah event called "Element 11," similar to the Nevada countercultural festival Burning Man, takes place each year

Though the fire lanterns have caused fires, including one this summer on a mountain near Provo, organizers of the festival downplay the concern. The lanterns that will be launched by people who pay $30 to participate are fire-resistant, biodegradable, Gessel said. The fuel cells burn out before they land, she said.

"So far, we've launched over 30,000 lanterns in the U.S. and haven't had an incident," Gessel said.

The popularity of fire lanterns has surged in recent years, are sometimes set off by the hundreds at weddings and funerals. Fire chiefs around the country have issued warnings about the danger of the lanterns. One of the driving forces behind the increased popularity of the lanterns is a scene from the 2010 Disney movie "Tangled," in which hundreds of lanterns are released over water.

Porter acknowledges that there's very little to burn at the site, but said fire lanterns always worry him.

"We have talked with them, expressed our concerns, but it's up to the local governing body," Porter said.


Information from: Deseret News,

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