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Not a bright idea - the dangers of sky lanterns

14 April 2020

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service is fully behind The National Fire Chiefs Council which has warned a campaign encouraging the public to light sky lanterns in a show of solidarity for NHS workers is ‘misguided’.

two sky lanterns lit and about to float away

All emergency services are currently under increased pressure due to COVID-19. NFCC believes the suggestion that people should set off highly flammable lanterns – at a time when wildfires are likely to be on the increase due to the weather conditions – should be highly discouraged.

Sky lanterns can land anywhere and have been responsible for a number of fires across the UK over recent years. Further afield, 30 animals were killed in a fire at a German zoo in January believed to have been caused by a sky lantern.

Even if the flame has been extinguished as lanterns return to earth, the metal 'gondola' or the wires used in the construction can be fatal to animals who become entangled in, or even swallow, the metal.

thank you graphicNFCC is urging the public to look for alternative ways to show their support to the NHS such as rainbows in windows and the Thursday 8pm 'Clap for our Carers'. Lanterns are a fire hazard; pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, thatched properties and hazardous material sites. Almost 90 local authorities across the UK have banned the use of lanterns.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher explained the dangers:

“While I fully understand people wanting to show their support to the NHS, I would encourage people to find a different way to do this.

“NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns and we do not believe they should be used under any circumstances.

“All emergency services are currently under unprecedented pressure due to COVID-19, and I am concerned this type of activity could not only put additional pressure on the fire service, but further strain on the NHS.

“If a sky lantern causes a fire, it could see firefighters spending valuable time dealing with what could be a complex and large-scale incident. Time which could be spent supporting vulnerable people in the community, as part of the fire services response to COVID-19.”

Backing the call, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

“We all want to do our bit to show our appreciation for the NHS and frontline workers, but please stay safe and consider one of the many other ways of showing support.

“Sky lanterns pose a danger to our precious environment and wildlife and can place a greater strain on our frontline services and key workers at this challenging time.”

HFRS Chief Fire Officer Chris Blacksell was also unequivocal in his opposition to the idea of saluting the NHS with sky lanterns:

"Please don't do this - it is inappropriate. Sky lanterns cause us significant issues at the best of times. It's even worse right now as Fire Services have enough to deal with."

Click here to read more on the dangers of sky lanterns.

Read our Sky Lanterns Policy Statement

#ClapForOurCarers