Sky lanterns at a Lantern Festival in Taipei, Taiwan (Illustrative image)

Prague likely to ban flying lanterns and further restrict amateur fireworks

Flying lanterns of the type that caused a fire at a German zoo headed for a ban in Prague

People in Prague may no longer be allowed to release flying lanterns. The Prague Assembly approved the proposal, which will become part of a pending decree restricting fireworks.

“I think people can express their happiness in other ways than by releasing burning lanterns that have already caused a number of fires,” Prague Assemblyman Radomír Nepil (ANO), who authored the bill, said.

He was motivated to make the proposal because of the fire at Krefeld Zoo in Germany that led to a fire in a primate pavilion and the deaths of over 30 animals including orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees. Other lantern-related fires have caused large-scale damage in the UK and Brazil.

The lanterns rise due to hot air from a lit wax candle. Often, the candle goes out while the lantern is still in the air, but sometimes the lanterns land with the flame still lit. In dry conditions this can cause a fire. The metal or plastic frames also pose a hazard, as they can be eaten by farm animals or wildlife.

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wenceslas square
Fireworks at Wenceslas Square for New Years Eve. via Raymond Johnston

The new decree on the use of pyrotechnics is being prepared by Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague). The current city ordinance prohibits amateur firing of fireworks except for New Year’s Eve and New Year Day. Prague City Hall is now considering restrictions on firecrackers and unprofessional fireworks.

“We are currently discussing within the [City Hall] coalition. It is likely that we will not go through a total ban, but only a ban on pyrotechnics in certain places,” Hlubuček told daily Pravo, adding that the first phase is likely to include Wenceslas Square and Náplavka, which have been the most problematic areas.

“We are also discussing city districts that could possibly allow the use of pyrotechnics in certain places,” he said.

Prague City Hall on January 1, 2020, did not have a traditional fireworks show in part due to concerns over the effects of the noise on pets and wildlife. Instead, there was a videomapping on Wenceslas Square.

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fireworks
Fireworks over Prague 2 on January 1. via Raymond Johnston

The Prague 2 district, however, did have a large fireworks show funded by public donations. The organizers of that show also urged people to sign a petition calling for restrictions on amateur fireworks.

The ban on lanterns, though, is likely to be absolute. Hlubuček said the manufacturers already warm people not to use them in built-up areas, near forests, or airports.

This would not be the first such ban on lanterns. One was approved last year by the city administration in Liberec.

The lanterns have been banned in parts of Germany as far back as 1936, and now they are illegal in most of Germany without a permit. They are also illegal in Spain, Vietnam, and parts of South America. Law on a ban is pending in the UK.

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