British Columbia

'It's a big no-no': Floating lanterns released during Vancouver Island drought

In a move that has left local firefighters scratching their heads, floating lanterns were released last week on Vancouver Island, where conditions are hot and dry and wildfires continue to burn.

Fire department turns to social media to remind the public not to play with flames during wildfire season

At least three Chinese lanterns were released on Vancouver Island last week during wildfire season. (Qualicum Beach Fire Department)

Firefighters on drought-stricken Vancouver Island are still scratching their heads over some fire-powered lanterns that were released last week.

One of the floating lanterns — paper balloons with an open flame on the inside that lifts them into the sky — landed in a tree of a resident's backyard. Luckily, nothing caught fire.

"Obviously, it's a no-no," Qualicum Beach Fire Department Chief Daryll Kohse said to On The Island guest host Khalil Akhtar.

"It wasn't the smartest thing to do, and I think these people who probably did it realized what might've seemed like a good idea at the time really wasn't."

Floating lanterns like these are powered by a flame placed inside. Firefighters say they are a hazard in drought-stricken areas like Vancouver Island. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

The team at the fire department invoked the power of social media to remind residents to skip lighting floating lanterns this summer.

Their Facebook post reached 40,000 people and received hundred of reactions.

The province recently issued a drought warning for the entire B.C. coast after an extremely dry spring and little precipitation.

And firefighters on the island are currently tackling two wildfires: one on Beaufort Ridge near Port Alberni and another at Nanaimo Lakes that prompted the regional government to declare a local state of emergency and the evacuation of several homes Monday night.

At noon on Monday, the Nanaimo Lakes wildfire was estimated at 50 hectares in size, but it had more than doubled by evening, prompting a local state of emergency and an evacuation order. (B.C. Wildfire Service.)

Most fires human-caused

While they might be beautiful when released at an appropriate time, Kohse said the climate is currently too dry for floating lanterns on the island.

"With these extremely dry conditions, we're seeing a lot of fires locally on Vancouver Island," Kohse said. "Most of these fires are human-caused."

Listen to the full interview here:

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