Dover Twp considers banning sky lanterns

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
  • Most neighboring states surrounding Pennsylvania have banned the use of sky lanterns: Delaware; New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Maryland.
Lantern Fest comes to the York Expo Center May 12.

Sky lanterns — while beautiful — can be dangerous, Dover Township Planning Commission member Brian Kimball recently told the township's supervisors.

Dover leaders are considering updating their fireworks ordinance to ban them in the township.

Kimball said he’s witnessed sky lanterns “go out of control” and “scorch grass.”

“I’ve tried to get ahold of the fire marshal, and when I did, I was informed that they are actually legal,” he said. “It would be up to the township to take a look at this.”

Kimball said sky lanterns are a “hazard to livestock.”

“The wires puncture their stomachs and cause all types of problems,” he added. “I’m very surprised that, with all the farmland and livestock in the area, this is allowed. There’s quite a few states that have these banned.”

Most of Pennsylvania's neighboring states have banned the use of sky lanterns: Delaware; New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Maryland.

The township would be “supportive” of banning them, said Steve Stefanowicz, chairman of the board of supervisors.

He said he personally dealt with one landing on his roof several years ago. 

“I know my roof happens to be metal, but it’s scary,” Stefanowicz said.

Supervisor Charles Richards mentioned the sky lanterns released in July at the York Expo Center.

“The fire marshal was going crazy; they were on the roofs of churches, basically doing fire watches all throughout the city,” Richards said. “You might as well shoot flaming arrows in the air. If you ask me, it’s not much different.”

Thousands of lanterns, made out of cardboard and tissue paper, were released into the sky above the fairgrounds for the county’s first Lantern Fest on July 28.

More:Lantern Fest at York Expo Center leaves debris; return in doubt

While the lanterns are supposed to burn up the cardboard within three or four minutes, “whole pieces” of tissue paper bags were left to float to the street level, blocking traffic on Market Street and Richland Avenue, according to West Manchester Township Fire Chief Clif Laughman.  

Organizers collected lanterns after the festival and returned on Sunday and Monday to ensure the roads were clear, though Laughman noted the department and homeowners did have some cleanup to do.

No fires were reported to fire officials in and around the area of where the sky lanterns were released, according to emergency personnel. 

"They are beautiful ... you can’t take that away from them," Kimball said. "They are unbelievably dangerous, but they are at the risk of Mother Nature, and they are still burning. It’s just a matter of time."