LEOMINSTER — A sky lantern, which is made of paper and propelled through the air with a flame, set the roof of Leominster High School on fire earlier this month.
State fire officials say that at 10:20 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, fire fighters responded to Leominster High School following a report of a fire on the premises.
Custodial staff pointed the fire fighters in the direction of the smoke, which was coming from the roof. According to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, crews put out the fire quickly, but in order to do so, they had to approach the fire from the interior of the high school, by ground ladder and by air.
Sky lanterns, or Chinese lanterns, have traditionally been used in festivals held in Asia. And while they’re beautiful, the fire hazard they present goes against the Massachusetts State Fire Code.
“Once a sky lantern is lit and airborne, there’s no controlling where it might land or what it might set on fire,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “The State Fire Code prohibits their use in Massachusetts, and their sale may violate the Consumer Protection Act. For safety’s sake, please don’t use them, and call us if you see them offered for sale.”
Leominster Fire Chief Robert Sideleau II said this incident could have had dire consequences. That’s because smoke alarms inside a building cannot detect a fire on the roof until “it’s grown to a dangerous size.”
“Incidents like this one are a perfect example of why sky lanterns are dangerous,” said Chief Sideleau II. “An open flame floating uncontrolled and out of reach can have devastating consequences for people and property. Under different circumstances, this could have been a life-threatening fire.”
The fire was determined to be accidental and Leominster High School was fully open the following day.