Los Alamos Fire Marshal Wendy Servey commented this morning on plans surfacing within social media and other forums that Los Alamos residents may be planning to mark upcoming special dates in May, such as high school graduation, with lighting and launching sky lanterns.
“While I appreciate the creativity that our residents are using to develop possible options to celebrate these important milestones during the stay-at-home order, it’s also my responsibility to see that such activities occur in a safe manner,” Servey said, “Most residents may not know that our Fire Code prohibits the use of sky lanterns in Los Alamos County.”
Servey said sky lanterns are problematic because they use hot gas from a flame to rise into the air, which means the lantern can unintentionally spread fire to structures, forests and open spaces.
“It’s important to note that Los Alamos is just beginning to enter an active fire season, and because of our wildland-urban interface, we need to take extra precautions to keep the community safe from the threat of a wildfire,” she said.
Instead of sky lanterns, Servey encouraged residents to consider flameless options for celebrating.
“Luminarias are allowed and might be a good alternative,” she said, adding that she recommends using manufactured pre-lit luminarias or lighting the bags with a battery powered tea light, or, if candles are used, placing the bags at least 15 feet away from structures and combustible materials and keeping a close watch on the bags once candles are lit.
Servey asked for the community to support compliance with the Fire Code and to report non-compliance to Dispatch at (505) 662-8222 or 911 in an emergency. She said she welcomes questions about what kinds of activities may be allowed or prohibited when families are planning their at-home celebrations during May. She can be reached at the LAFD Administration office at 662-8305.
“I know these are difficult times of isolation and social distancing, but it’s also key to remember that we have just experienced a winter with very little snowfall. May and June are some of our most volatile, dry and windy months. We’ll be monitoring the situation closely and are likely to be putting additional measures into place soon that restrict the use of fires within Los Alamos County. Help us keep Los Alamos safe – let’s keep our first responders focused on addressing public safety and health needs during this pandemic as our top priority,” Servey said.