LANSING – State Representative Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) said today that he has introduced House Bill 4857 to specifically ban sky lanterns because of the threat they pose to people and property. Sky lanterns are a type of fireworks where a self-contained luminary device uses a balloon to become airborne, and while airborne has an open flame or other heat source.
“As a former Sterling Heights firefighter, I know that there is no safe way to use a sky lantern because you can’t control where it lands, so it could land on someone’s roof or in a yard and cause a fire,” said Yanez. “I’ve introduced legislation to repeal Michigan’s current fireworks law, which would also prohibit the sale and use of sky lanterns, but that legislation has yet to be brought up for a vote. I introduced this sky lantern ban because it is imperative that we act now, and we should at least be able to agree on protecting our citizens from this particularly dangerous form of firework.”
Since Michigan has allowed the sale and use of consumer fireworks around national holidays, communities have dealt with complaints from residents about noise and what residents consider the inherent danger of fireworks. Legislation passed in 2013, and supported by Yanez, allowed local units of government, based on population, to regulate the ignition, discharge and use of fireworks to certain hours around federal holidays. Recently, the city of Sterling Heights adopted an ordinance that prohibited the use of sky lanterns. That still, however, does not address the problem of fireworks landing where they aren’t supposed to. “Sky lanterns do not recognize city borders,” said Yanez. “Someone in a neighboring community, where sky lanterns are permissible, could ignite and release a sky lantern that could start a fire in another city like Sterling Heights, which has a ban in effect,” said Yanez. “That is why we need to pass a state law to ban sky lanterns.”
Yanez has been contacted by multiple residents throughout the state who have had negative personal encounters with sky lanterns.
“We were just lucky we were home when the sky lantern landed on our roof,” said homeowner Dee Mayer. “If we weren’t home to put it out our house could have burned down. There’s just no good reason to allow these sky lanterns, and I’m glad that Rep. Yanez understands that and is trying to get them banned before they damage or destroy someone’s home.”
Yanez also received a phone call from a gentleman who had a sky lantern land on his elderly 92-year-old neighbor’s lawn. In this case, the fireworks were being shot off illegally on a day that was not a federal holiday or the day before or after a federal holiday.
Minnesota and Indiana have fireworks laws similar to Michigan, and allow the use of consumer fireworks. Ohio allows for the sale of consumer fireworks, but they cannot be shot off in Ohio and a purchaser has 48 hours after the sale to take the fireworks out of the state.
“While a fireworks show is certainly fun to watch, they are still rockets and small bombs that are quite dangerous if they are not handled correctly, which is why I would prefer to see us repeal our current law,” said Yanez. “In the meantime, I will try to at least ban sky lanterns and continue to support bills to reduce the risk posed by unsafe fireworks use.”