Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service explain the dangers of Chinese Lanterns
PUBLISHED: 12:03 26 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:37 20 February 2013
The use of Chinese Lanterns for celebrating at weddings, birthdays or any other special event is growing in popularity. Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service and the National Farmers Union want to remind you of the risks from these flying lanterns
The use of Chinese Lanterns for celebrating at Weddings, Birthdays or any other special event is growing in popularity. Devon &Somerset Fire & Rescue Service have joined up with the National Farmers Union (NFU) to remind you of the risks from these flying lanterns and in particular the risks to farmers crops and their cattle.
Flying lanterns are usually constructed of paper stretched over a wire frame, rather similar to a spherical paper lampshade. They contain a wax candle that enables the lantern to fly for up to 20 minutes. The lanterns when lit will rise for up to 20 minutes and can ascend to over a mile in the sky - where they will still be visible on a clear night until they disintegrate.
Research has shown that in some cases embers from the fuel cell can continue to glow for several minutes after the flames have gone out. There is also the very real possibility that hot, glowing embers can fall from the lantern as it flies and could land on people or animals.
This means the lanterns have the potential to start a fire even in normal use; there is also the danger of fire starting due to improper use.
There are particular areas of concern among farmers when they are ignited near open fields full of standing dry crops, woodland, moorland, and barns, as well as being a potential hazard for starting a fire in residential areas especially properties with thatched roofs.
NFU acting director of communications Terry Jones said: We have given manufacturers, as well as suppliers, time to take on board our concerns over the sale of these lanterns and move to a safer and more environmentally friendly solution.
While we have seen some movement by manufacturers and suppliers to biodegradable eco-lanterns, NFU Council members felt that the moves were too little, too late. The overwhelming majority of them felt that the UK should follow the example set by other countries and ban them outright, thereby ending any possible future harm to livestock, wildlife and the environment.
The NFU has received numerous reports of harm to livestock, and in some instances death, caused by cattle ingesting the metal wires contained within the lantern frames.
A farmer from Somerset, Stephen Bartlett said: Chinese lanterns are a danger to cattle and sheep, when the metal frames end up cut into inch long sections by the forage machinery, in the process of making hay and silage for winter fodder. The small sections of wire are small enough to be digested yet large enough to cause bleeding or blockages in the animals stomach's.
The danger and the repercussions of digestion are not realised until it is too late and the animal falls ill, usually ending in a slow and painful death unless destroyed by a vet. The small pieces of metal wire are not detectable by the metal detectors on the silage making machinery.
The other risk, especially at this time of the year, is the lantern coming down in corn fields or fields of cut straw causing tremendous fire risk.
The lanterns are often seen as a gentler alternative to fireworks, but the potential risks they carry are high and although they are not banned - there is already a complete ban on the lanterns in Germany and Australia - Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service would not recommend their use.