- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Releasing Chinese lanterns will no longer be an option for Alaska residents to celebrate their cause of choice.

A statewide ban on the sky lanterns went into effect May 19, the Juneau Empire reported (https://bit.ly/2rsgd4x ).

Organizers of events such as “Shedding Light,” which was centered on releasing the lanterns to support foster and adoption children, are now brainstorming other ways to keep their tradition moving forward.

“We thought it would be a neat idea, a creative, powerful symbol,” said Gabi Flaten, one of the event’s organizers and a foster mother. “We will go back to the drawing board and find a way to make this work. It’s definitely a huge blow. I’m disappointed - but luckily we have a little bit of time to salvage the situation.”

The lanterns were previously allowed with a local fire department’s approval, but the state fire code now actually defines sky lanterns and bans them outright.

There have been problems in the past with the lanterns disrupting airports and planes, including at a 2014 Anchorage event in support of domestic violence victims. Officials at Merrill Field briefly rerouted airplane traffic when paper lanterns appeared in the flight path. After the event, police received calls about the rerouted planes and about a vehicle that almost crashed after a lantern landed on top of it.

Residents are also concerned with the lanterns landing in their backyard and starting a fire, state Life Safety Inspection Bureau Supervisor Jeff Morton said.

“They wanted nothing to do with them, for obvious reasons,” Morton said. “It’s like lighting a paper airplane and throwing it into the wind. Now imagine 150 of those lit and traveling uncontrolled. You can imagine the consequences. . There’s just no safe way to deploy those things.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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