The lantern eventually landed in a runway at the airport, not far from fuel tanks.
Passerby Michael Connolly witnessed the incident at around 9.30pm on Friday evening.
“I witnessed a number of people some distance away from me, on the road adjacent to the airport runway sending the burning lantern into the air,” he told Donegal Daily.
“There were two cars involved, one was a red Renault car and the other a dark coloured Volvo estate both with yellow UK rear number plates.
“They drove off immediately after sending the burning lantern into the air.”
Airport security officer Brian Boyle (pictured with lantern) described the incident as “mindless and stupid.”
Mr Boyle said: “The location where the lantern landed is only yards from where thousands of gallons of aviation fuel are stored and the airport is surrounded in dry crisp vegetation which is also highly flammable this time of year.”
The airport authorities accept that the incident was probably an innocent thing to do – but it could have had serious consequences.