“Chinese Lanterns Cause Fires” is the message being put out. Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service does not support the use of Chinese lanterns and urge the public and event organisers to refrain from using them.
This message was put out by the fire brigade last year, following a national spate of fires caused by Chinese lanterns – and today, at Smethwick in the West Midlands, a huge fire involving 100,000 tonnes of plastic recycling material, was caused by Chinese lanterns. With 200 fire-fighters at the scene and three in hospital, it’s time to revisit this advice.
Chinese lanterns, also known as ‘sky lanterns’ are airborne paper lanterns, made from rice paper fixed to a bamboo or wire frame. Chinese lanterns contain a small candle or fuel cell which, when lit, heats the air inside the lantern, lowering its density and causing the lantern to rise into the air. Chinese lanterns are only airborne for as long as the flame stays alight, after which the lantern floats back to the ground.
However, there are a significant number of faulty Chinese lanterns which either disintegrate/fail, or, simply get blown into buildings, trees and haystacks. Even a Chinese lantern which performs perfectly could land in a field, then the crop is gathered for animal feed and the animals choke on the wire.
There is evidence of them causing fires, they waste police time, the coastguards receive calls where they are mistaken for distress flares, aircraft are mislead and livestock killed
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency responded to 128 false alerts believed to have been caused by Chinese lanterns in one year between October 1 2009 and September 30 2010.
Chinese lanterns were banned at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, as Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service have joined up with Michael Eavis, the organiser of Glastonbury Festivals. While a ban on selling Chinese lanterns been in place at Glastonbury for several years, people were still bringing them onto the site themselves, until now. Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service does not recommend the use of Chinese lanterns.
The risk of these occurrences will only increase as the use of Chinese lanterns increases.
Chinese lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, but the potential damage they can cause to property and livestock is significant.
Figures issued by Cornwall Fire and Rescue can be viewed here: Fires caused by Chinese Lanterns
In November 2015 Cornwall Council backed a proposal to ban the launching of Chinese Lanterns from their land. Event organisers will see this advice on the Cornwall County website:
Releasing Balloons and Lanterns
The launch of lanterns or balloons shall not take place on Cornwall Council owned/managed land (including leased land). This includes all airborne launched lanterns, latex balloons and similar free-floating devices that are not under control once launched, any such device containing a naked flame, fuel cell, helium gas or similar elevation mechanism and includes any item described as biodegradable.
Image: Takeaway, Chinese Lantern