Plea not to release sky lanterns to support NHS

Plea not to release sky lanterns to support NHS

Published at 3:17pm 15th April 2020. (Updated at 3:47pm 15th April 2020)

4 minute read

Fire chiefs in Wiltshire say Chinese lanterns are a fire hazard and a danger to wildlife, pets and people.

Numerous posts have been circulating on social media encouraging people to light up the sky in support of NHS Workers.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is now urging people to find safer alternatives.

Chinese lanterns, also known as wish or sky lanterns, are a sort of hot air balloon generally made from paper, supported by a wire frame that incorporates a holder at the base for a solid fuel heat source.

Whilst lighting and launch are largely in the control of the user, the actual flight path and ultimate destination are not and there is no guarantee that the fuel cell will be fully extinguished.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Area Manager Craig Baker said: 

"With Chinese lanterns, you're basically throwing a naked flame into the sky with no control over the direction it will take or where it will land- in addition, there is no guarantee that the fuel source will be fully extinguished and cooled when the lantern eventually descends, and that presents a real fire hazard. 

At a time when we are trying to keep our turn-outs to a minimum, to protect our crews from potential exposure to coronavirus, the last thing we need is lots of people launching these lanterns. We would urge everyone to find safer ways of supporting our key workers."

Meanwhile the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) has described the recent attempt by companies to market sky lanterns as a means of showing support for NHS workers as “misguided”. 

Sky lantern Chinese lantern
Concerns over the use of sky lanterns.

RENEWED CALL TO BAN SKY LANTERNS

Meanwhile, the Country Land and Business Association is calling for a complete ban on sky lanterns.

They have been attributed to the start of fires in farm buildings and at industrial estates as well as causing horrific injury to animals. 

The CLA says the risks extend beyond fire as the metal, or sometimes bamboo, frame can be eaten by livestock causing devastating injuries. 

Whilst some lanterns are considered "biodegradable" they can take several years to disintegrate into the ground, by which point they have been cut up by forage harvesters into shreds bound into feed bales and later entering the animal's gut as fatal shards of bamboo.   

There is also considerable risk to homes, farm buildings and industrial sites. 

CLA Director South West Ann Maidment said: 

"There is simply no responsible way to use sky lanterns. They can kill animals, litter the countryside and pose a huge risk to the start of fires, especially as the ground is extremely dry at the moment. This can cause another national emergency when our resources are already stretched. 

"These are all reasons why we've been campaigning for a number of years to get sky lanterns banned.

"We are all keen to celebrate the invaluable work of the NHS at this terrible time, but there are much better ways to show our support than releasing dangerous and damaging sky lanterns. What an extraordinary waste of money! This money can be directed towards those working very hard to tackle this crisis."

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