Editorial

'Flying fire bombs' should be banned

Friday, July 5, 2013

Someone joked on Facebook that nothing's more American than drinking beer and playing with explosives.

We don't know about the beer, but judging by the noise around McCook last night, plenty of people got the message about explosives.

This morning's McCook police activity log included four grass fire reports and three noise or complaints about fireworks -- not an especially busy day, considering it was the Fourth of July.

While watching the fireworks at the Red Willow County Fairgrounds, we noticed a few dozen Chinese lanterns drifting by from south to north.

It wasn't long before we heard the inevitable sirens, one of the lanterns, essentially a miniature hot-air balloon carrying its own flames, had started a fire not far from the fairgrounds.

Fireworks of any kind have the potential for starting a fire, but setting a flaming object loose in the sky to drift with the wind seems especially dangerous, especially in dry Southwest Nebraska, where the wheat harvest is just getting under way.

Chinese lanterns are paper wrapped around a light frame and carry a small candle or fuel cell of a waxy flammable material that heats air inside and causes them to rise. Once the flame dies out, they float back to ground.

That's the way they're supposed to work, but if they're released to close to a tree, in too high of a wind or if they fail to work properly, they can start a fire if they come in contact with flammable materials.

A state senator tried to have them banned in 2012 after he found an extinguished one on his front porch the previous year, but his bill created enough uproar to be dropped.

Local observers expect the issue to be revived, and predict the lanterns will be banned for 2014.

We're not fans of government regulations in general, and agree to some degree with those who decry the creation of a "nanny state."

But it's hard to fault a law that would ban what is essentially an aerial fire bomb, even in the celebration of American Independence.

Sparklers with wire centers will be outlawed next year in favor of those on wooden sticks. Too many small children are burned on hands and feet by coming in contact with the red-hot metal.

Let's hope Chinese lanterns are next.

Should "Chinese Lantern" fireworks be banned?
 Yes
 No.
 Don't know

Your comments about the poll question: (Optional)

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    I would imagine that some of the people that voted no, just might change their vote about the time one of these started their house on fire. But then maybe not.

    -- Posted by fit2btied on Fri, Jul 5, 2013, at 10:15 PM
  • When Chinese Lanterns are outlawed only outlaws will have Chinese Lanterns.

    -- Posted by Diatheke on Sat, Jul 6, 2013, at 4:54 AM
  • They can have my Chinese lanterns when they pry it from my cold dead hand

    -- Posted by president obama on Sun, Jul 7, 2013, at 5:08 PM
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