Illegal? Update on the floating sky lanterns


Turns out some bucket list items are so much harder to accomplish than they seem at first. Releasing a floating (sky) lantern is one of those difficult ones.

Made popular by increased awareness of global festivals and the movie Tangled, releasing floating sky lanterns seems like a great summer activity… that is, until I found out how complicated it can be to find a place to release them.

My future sister-in-law gave me a bunch of lanterns for Christmas, so I was really excited to release them this year. However, I’d heard that it might be illegal in some places (especially if there’s a burn ban in effect), so I thought I’d ask the authorities before I release the lanterns.

Where I live, even fireworks are illegal unless you have a permit for a special event, and open flames can be an issue if not attended at all times (as the flame would be in a sky lantern because it flies away from you).

When I contacted the Seattle Fire Department, they emailed me this response:

The use of “Sky Lanterns” violates several sections of the Seattle Fire Code (SFC). When used with a flame these devices are considered Recreational Fires, as defined in Section 302.1 of the SFC. Section 307.5 requires that Recreational Fires “shall be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished…” and that they “shall not be conducted within 25 feet of a structure or combustible material.”

Since sky lanterns cannot be used in compliance with these requirements, they are not allowed in the City of Seattle.

For more information, please contact the Code Compliance Section in the Fire Marshal’s Office. [from a June 24, 2016 email]

There are lantern festivals in the USA, but when I looked at the most popular one I noticed they have several locations listed that currently (and usually) have fire burn bans due to the heat. Many states and even entire countries have banned sky lanterns due to the fire risk.

Since I believe in and encourage responsible bucket listing, and never advocate disregard for the laws of any country you travel or live in, I’ll have to wait on (or maybe remove) this list item.

Please let me hear your story:

  • Have you had to choose between a bucket list item and doing what was right?
  • Have you had to give up a list item for any reason?

11 thoughts on “Illegal? Update on the floating sky lanterns

  1. Pingback: Responsible travel – how much is my individual responsibility? | The Goal List

  2. Pingback: Summer Bucket List 2017 | The Goal List

  3. Susan

    Oh man, that stinks! While I was really looking forward to you completing this item, I understand why it can’t be done. I’m glad you took the time to ask the proper authorities for persmission; I just completed my bucket list and while I don’t think I have anything illegal on it I’m not going to go back over it. I would hate to do something in my mind that is A-OK when in reality it isn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      Yeah, I was really disappointed. I may still be able to do it if I travel somewhere it’s legal, and somehow I reduce the fire risk (no dry desert or surrounded by a bunch of trees), but it’s definitely not something I’m doing here in Seattle!


    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      Hi Sue, thanks for commenting. 🙂 I liked what you said about “breaking the law would take the joy out of it for me” – That is a great way of expressing it, I feel the same way. Do you have a bucket list? What are some of the things on your list?


  4. laraadmin

    I’m glad you posted this, Shelly. It’s one thing to dream of doing something. But to compromise laws and the safety of others to accomplish it… not worth it! I’m a big bucket list advocate, especially family bucket lists that help parents make the most of the years with their children at home. I think bucket lists can be a great source of fun, bonding and self-exploration. What I don’t like about bucket lists is the potential they have for being self-serving at the expense of others. In my Bucket List Life Manifesto I included the wording “In your adventures show respect – for your surroundings, the people you encounter, yourself” in response to/anticipation of people thinking their bucket list gives them the license to do whatever they want, just because it’s on their list. It shows strength of character and sacrifice to give up something on your bucket list out of respect for the law. So I applaud your decision, wholeheartedly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      Thanks for leaving a comment and for your support! I love the part about respect in your manifesto. I feel that my bucket list experiences help me learn more about myself, and I’m not willing to lose the part of me that strives to be ethical in accomplishing my dreams. Thanks for sharing that. I’m going to download the manifesto and put it on my wall. 🙂


  5. C. M. Ness


    I have broken the law in order to check things off from my bucket list. I DON’T think it’s a good idea if you’re going to hurt people, BUT I think there are loopholes to some dreams. For example, if one wanted a Viking Cremation (which is illegal), you could technically be cremated FIRST then your ashes sent off to the ocean on a wooden boat lit on fire or no fire (I saw this on YouTube). Anyways, I also know that there are many places that don’t have strict rules on such things, so perhaps one can travel to a place that could allow the lantern. Making a mini lantern is another possibility as to satisfy the lantern goal, make it fly up an ocean. I know there are people who do letters in a bottle and some survived, so maybe passing on the dream to someone else in a bottle and hoping someone will find it (there are also stories on finding bottles from other places). I think it just takes some creativity…


    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree that creativity (and flexibility) in bucket listing is essential, but I disagree with breaking the law to do a list item. Traveling to a place that allows the lantern is my only choice now, but I still have to decide if it’s worth it to me because law or no law, they carry a lot of risk of starting fires. I appreciate your effort and creativity in thinking of alternative ways to do list items that satisfy the goal and the law. 🙂


  6. Pingback: Summer Bucket List 2016 | The Goal List

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s