WITH the festive season now in full swing, firefighters in West Sussex are reminding people of the dangers posed by releasing Chinese lanterns.
Chinese lanterns have become an increasingly popular choice to mark special celebrations like Christmas and New Year, but they can pose a potential fire risk to homes, animals and agriculture.
The lanterns are made of paper usually supported by a wire or bamboo frame and powered by a flaming fuel cell.
Jackie Boyle, community risk reduction officer for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Chinese lanterns are now used quite regularly at celebratory events, but people are often unaware that there are a number of different risks associated with them. Once the lanterns have been released into the air there is no way of controlling where they go or any guarantee that they are fully extinguished when they land.
“Our main concern is obviously the risk of a smouldering lantern sparking a serious fire and potentially putting people’s lives and properties in danger. They are also extremely hazardous to livestock – if the lanterns fall in fields and are consumed by an animal the metal wires used in them can lodge in their throat and cause very serious injury.
“Another area of concern, raised by the Coastguard, is the increase in the number of rescue teams being called out to false alarms where the lanterns have been mistaken for distress flares. We advise anyone planning to organise a mass sky lantern launch in a coastal area to inform the relevant local authorities in advance.
“If people are determined to use these lanterns they should also ensure they come with full safety and operating instructions and are 100% biodegradable. Please think very carefully about where you release them – they should only be released in a clear open space avoiding farmland, buildings with thatched roofs or areas of dense woodland.”