Calls to ban sky lanterns

  • 8-3-2011

UK: Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service have joined up with Michael Eavis, the farmer behind the Glastonbury festival, to remind people of the risks from setting off sky (Chinese) lanterns and in particular the risks they carry to farmer’s cattle and their crops.

Every year at Glastonbury, sky lanterns are set off illegally, Michael Eavis explained:”I would like to see them totally banned, I am surrounded by farmers and when Glastonbury festival takes place it is sky lanterns that they get angry about. For several years now we have banned them being sold at the festival, but people still bring them on site within all their camping gear.

"It’s an absolute disaster when they let them off; if they were ever to land on a tent they could start a fire that would set off a domino effect, as the tents are pitched so close together at the festival.

“They are also a real danger to both cattle and sheep as the metal frames fall down into long grass and end up being cut into small sharp needle-like sections by the forage machinery, when making hay and silage for the winter fodder. The wire is then eaten by the cows and sheep and can actually kill them by causing bleeding or blockages in their stomachs.  I have had a couple of my own cows die from eating the metal needles.

“We’re not arable farmers, but when the crops get tinder dry they will go up in no time if a lit lantern were to land on them. I would like to see them banned nationwide.”

DSFRS Yeovil Support Group, Crew Manager, Michael Toop went on to say: “There are particular areas of concern among farmers when lanterns 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.”

Sky 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.

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 in the UK (there is already a complete ban on the lanterns in Germany and Australia) Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service would not recommend their use. 



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