Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service is again warning people about the dangers of Chinese lanterns, following a major fire in the West Midlands.
Chinese lanterns, also known as wish, sky or flying lanterns, have become increasingly popular worldwide as a means of celebrating special occasions – however, they carry a significant risk of fire or injury if not used wisely.
The lanterns are generally made from paper, supported by a frame that incorporates a holder at the base for a solid fuel heat source.
A fire involving a recycling facility in Smethwick overnight on 30 June was started by a Chinese lantern floating into the site whilst still alight. Over 200 firefighters have been needed to tackle the blaze, which involves 100,000 tons of recycled paper and plastics.
Group Manager Iain Hunter, head of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Protection and Prevention departments, said: “With Chinese lanterns, you’re basically throwing a naked flame into the sky with no control over the direction it will take, how far it will travel 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.”
He added: “Chinese lanterns are very attractive when they’re in the sky, and we fully understand why people use them. We would just urge anyone who’s thinking of buying some for any celebration to think very carefully about whether they will be safe to be released. As we have seen in the West Midlands, these lanterns can cause real devastation.”
Locations that should be considered particularly unsuitable for flying lanterns include areas with standing crops, anywhere near buildings with thatched roofs, areas of dense woodland and areas of heath or bracken, especially in dry conditions. Consideration should also be given to the proximity to major roads or airfields.
An advice sheet on the use of Chinese lanterns is available at www.wiltsfire.gov.uk/technical_Fire_Safety/flying_lanterns.asp