Officials have no love for ‘Lantern Fest’

Posted at 6:23 PM, Sep 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-23 18:23:11-04

ALAMO TWP., Mich. -- Officials said they're not happy about an event set to happen at the Kalamazoo Speedway on Saturday.

The 'Lantern Fest' was originally planned for the Berlin Raceway in October, but fire concerns and the close proximity to I-96 caused the move.

It's those fire concerns that have officials in Alamo Township concerned. You've probably seen the pictures of the sky lantern festivals, where thousands of glowing objects float up into the night sky. Despite being visually stunning, fire officials call it "an accident waiting to happen."

The 'Lantern Fest' owner said he expects between 2,000 and 2,500 sky lanterns launched Saturday. It's something a fire consultant for GBH International said he isn't so sure about.

"You can't control where these things are going to land--they're completely untethered, free-floating open flames," said Tim Earl.

Event organizers said volunteers have the goal of picking up all of the debris, but township officials aren't so sure.

"That's my biggest concern is that you're lighting these lanterns up and they're going where," said Alamo Township supervisor Tony Hyet, "They're going into other people's property. To me, that's littering and that's also trespassing when you go to clean them up."

The owner of the company behind the event assured FOX 17 they've minimized the risk: that they use 100-percent bio-degradable lanterns with a burn time of less than five minutes, and work closely with local fire authorities.

"We've done events all over the country," said Spencer Humiston, "We've put up over 40,000 sky lanterns, we haven't had any serious incidents, no ground fires, no injuries to any of our participants at all."

Hyet said the township is looking to regulate sky lanterns, and will likely write them into their local ordinances in coming months.