Concerns raised in San Francisco over illegal paper lanterns

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Paper lanterns that are propelled by a small flame that float in the night sky are known as flying lanterns or fire balloons. They're illegal in San Francisco, but didn't stop hundreds of people from launching them at Crissy Field Saturday night.

In an instant, the darkness around Crissy Field was replaced by light. Hundreds of sky lanterns were launched by families missing their loved ones.

"I just think it was a nice way to dedicate some memories to her," said San Francisco resident Lauren Miller.

Sky lanterns are typically used in celebrations. On Saturday, they carried away personal notes and well wishes. No one knows where the lanterns will eventually land. And that's exactly what worries Dave Osgood.

"There's a hazard here," he said.

Osgood shot video of lanterns floating along the Embarcadero.

A paper lantern drifts along San Francisco's Embarcadero.

"It's coming down by the tree and power lines," said Osgood. "People don't know where they'll land. But they are fire and they are flying, there's no control over them."

Sky lanterns are illegal in San Francisco and parts of the East Bay. Drought conditions prompted the restrictions. Now the state's fire marshal is considering statewide restrictions on them.

"I don't think they should be banned," said Chris Perez.

Lanterns are easily available in Chinatown. ABC7 News found one store that sells them for $3.

Meanwhile those at the memorial weren't too worried about a fire starting.

A paper lantern is lit at San Francisco's Crissy Field on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015.

"I think the significance of the cultural aspect outweighs that potential concern," said San Francisco resident Rochelle Domingo.

Sources at the San Francisco Police Department admit that busting anyone for launching sky lanterns is rarely, if at all, done.
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