Mylar balloons, the shiny metallic, silvery balloons are popular decorations for a variety of occasions, thanks to their availability in a wide variety of unique shapes and bright designs. They seem to be most popular beginning around Valentine’s Day and peaking in warmer months. But the foil-like coating also conducts electricity, which means untethered Mylar balloons can cause big problems if they make contact with an electrical source, like a transformer or power line.
Mylar balloons are often the cause for power outages, as they can short transformers or melt wires just by getting too close. Even worse, they can cause explosions when making contact with a power source, causing downed power lines and fires. In 2013, Mylar balloons making contact with power lines sparked the Deer Fire in Tehama County, which burned over 11,000 acres.
With constant demand for power and California’s fire season getting longer and increasingly dangerous every year, utility companies and fire departments alike regularly encourage caution with these balloons. California even has a law making it illegal to release Mylar balloons with lighter than air gases (like helium) outdoors.
So how should you be handling them? First, keep them inside. If you see Mylar balloons outside, always make sure they are thoroughly weighted or tied securely. To dispose of them, puncture the balloon in several places, since even a partially inflated balloon can still float off. If you see a Mylar balloon or any other object entangled in a power line, call 911 or contact your local utility company.