Sky lanterns cause Santa Rosa roof fires

Santa Rosa fire officials issue warnings about sky lanterns after two roofs burned.|

Floating sky lanterns sparked fires on two roofs in a northwest Santa Rosa neighborhood this month, prompting fire officials to warn the public about the hazards of the paper balloons.

Investigators found the skeleton of a lantern on the shake roof of a fourplex in the 900 block of Butte Drive that ignited in flames at about 8 p.m. Monday.

Bystanders mostly put out the fire with a garden hose. It caused about $2,000 in damage, Battalion Chief Ken Sebastiani said.

Remains of a similar lantern were found after fire burned the roof of a commercial building on Piner Road on Jan. 14, Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said. The building is on the other side of Santa Rosa Creek from the Butte Drive fire.

Sky lanterns are typically constructed with oiled rice paper and a bamboo frame, but the lanterns found after both fires had wire frames, Lowenthal said. The lanterns are buoyed in the sky by hot air from a small flame, much like a hot air balloon.

While they are not illegal, any person who starts a fire using the lanterns could be liable for the damage and charged with a misdemeanor crime, according to a bulletin about the lanterns issued by the State Fire Marshal’s office.

Lowenthal said the lanterns are quite dangerous in the dry summer months, but “the fact that a wood shake roof can be ignited by one of these devices in the middle of winter is a concern.”

Santa Rosa fire officials asked that anyone with information about the lanterns contact the Fire Department at 543-3500.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or On Twitter @jjpressdem.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.