Extinguishing Our Fun

20170422_160421You know you’re having a crappy day when you walk outside and find two twenties shredded up in a pile of your dog’s pooh.

Ugh.

April 22 is normally a hard day for me. It’s the day our stillborn baby was born. Sure it’s the day I got to meet my third son, but it’s the only day I got to see him. Ever. Unless you count the day of his funeral, and I don’t like to count that day. He was so different then.

Anyway, I walked outside the afternoon of the 22 and found the money that had been missing from my purse in a pile of brown on my lawn. I was rejected.

Seriously? $40?

Little did I know the day would end with a couple of fire fighters coming at me saying I was breaking the law.

My family and I ran around on the 22 doing random acts of service. We wandered through Wal-Mart buying a few things to donate. We paid for someone’s food behind us in the drive through at Wendy’s. And did a couple other things. Then we went home and I took a quick nap. I’m always emotionally exhausted on Luca’s birthday.

We went to the cemetery after I woke up and decorated Luca’s grave. Then we headed out to an Italian restaurant for some comfort food and went to a local park to light wish lanterns to send to heaven. Just like we do every year.

But this year was drastically different.Luca's Birthday 2017-36

Things were going well. We had lit about a dozen lanterns and they were soaring nicely.

Then we saw sirens.

A bright red fire truck was coming down the street trailed by a police car with lights flashing.

They pulled up next to the park’s open field and some men started running toward us. I was sitting on the ground and wanted to hide.

But I took a deep breath and made my way to the officers. Two firemen and a police officer were running toward our group of family and friends shouting at us to stop because we were breaking the law.

When my husband and I approached the group they told us that the wish lanterns were illegal. That they were unattended aerial fireworks.

I wasn’t going to stand down. I argued with them about the law. Luckily I had done my homework. In 2013 the Utah State Legislature was considering banning the sky lanterns. I wrote an open letter to the Utah State Fire Marshall on my blog at the time talking about how much they mean to my family.

The legislature was considering amending the Utah State Fire Code to classify the lanterns as unattended fires. If they did that, they would be deemed illegal. But they modified the law.

As it stands today, lanterns are legal as long as there are no hazardous environmental conditions. Hazardous environmental conditions are determined by local municipalities. So it’s recommended that people check with local authorities for current conditions before lighting lanterns. If there are hazardous environmental conditions, the local authorities may prohibit the lanterns as well as any use of any other ignition sources. Below you can read the official excerpt from the code.

We’ve skipped out on doing lanterns in years past when the wind was strong and it was raining. It was a bummer, but we didn’t want to risk causing a fire. Our family knows what it feels like to lose everything to flames.

So I stood and argued with two fireman and a police officer. They were certain we were committing a crime. I was certain we weren’t.

I’m not going to lie, I felt kind of guilty. Something about lights flashing in the background and a police officer standing there with handcuffs makes you second guess if you are doing something right or not.

Amidst the arguing, one of the firemen stepped away and called the city’s fire chief. Who reassured him that the lanterns are legal.

He came back with a changed demeanor, and stated that he stood corrected. We were right. The lanterns are fine.

I have had people drive by and question us in the past about the lanterns. A couple of bystanders have even joined in and done some with our family before. But never have I been questioned by the authorities.

It was crazy.

I’m just glad I knew the law better than our local firemen did. Otherwise we may have walked away without ever thinking we could do them again.

We are going to make sure to call the fire department in the future when we do the lanterns. That way we can make certain that there are no hazardous environmental conditions and the authorities will be prepared to see the lanterns in the sky and won’t rush to stop us. We can have the conversation about the lantern’s legality over the phone before tensions get high in front of a large group at a city park.

Ironically we had taken candy to the police department earlier that morning as one of our service acts. We brought them a treat for helping us with our tree house drama last spring. I had to bite my tongue as the firemen and police officer walked away. I wanted to ask them two things 1. How did the candy taste? 2. Would they like to try lighting a lantern?

The fire code states:

310.8 Hazardous environmental conditions. When the fire code official determines that hazardous environmental conditions necessitate controlled use of any ignition source, including fireworks, lighters, matches, sky lanterns, and smoking materials, any of the following may occur:

1. If the hazardous environmental conditions exist in a municipality, the Legislative body of the municipality may prohibit the ignition or use of an ignition source in mountainous, brush-covered, or forest-covered areas or the wildland urban interface area, which means the line, area, or zone where structures or other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or land being used for an agricultural purpose.

2. Except as provided in paragraph 3, if the hazardous environmental conditions exist in an unincorporated area, the state forester may prohibit the ignition or use of an ignition source in all or part of the areas described in paragraph 1 that are within the unincorporated area, after consulting with the county fire code official who has jurisdiction over that area.

3. If the hazardous environmental conditions exist in a metro township created under Title 10, Chapter 2a, Part 4, Incorporation of Metro Townships and Unincorporated Islands in a County of the First Class, on and after May 12, 2015, the metro township legislative body may prohibit the ignition or use of an ignition source in all or part of the areas described in paragraph 1 that are within the township.

Luca's Birthday 2017-41

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