Councils support fire service sky lantern campaign

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) has gained the support of local authorities in a campaign to reduce the use of Chinese style sky lanterns.

Due the risks posed by the lanterns, Chief Fire Officer, Kevin Pearson, wrote to the Chief Executives of the four councils in the former Avon area urging increased controls both over their use on council land and through the event licensing process.

The leaders of Avon Fire Authority also wrote to political leaders of each council with the same request.

The paper lanterns are small hot air balloons, powered by a flame suspended on a wire frame and are increasingly popular at events and celebrations. However the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is just one of the groups that has called for greater controls over their use.

In 2013 CCTV footage proved a sky lantern to be the cause of a fire at a recycling plant in the West Midlands. More than 200 firefighters and 39 fire engines were deployed over several days to tackle the blaze involving plastics and paper.

AF&RS Chief Fire Officer Kevin Pearson said: “We share the view of CFOA and do not endorse the use of sky lanterns due to the risks they pose. The floating lanterns contain a naked flame which represents a significant fire risk to life and property when they come down to earth.

“The fire at the Smethwick recycling plant in the West Midlands in 2013 was caused by a single lantern but required a huge amount of resources to extinguish and left three firefighters injured.”

Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils have written to AF&RS to confirm they already have, or plan to introduce, bans on the release of lanterns from council owned land. A number have also agreed to explore whether requests for event licenses could be refused if there is a planned release of the lanterns.

In addition to the fire risk, lanterns are also a cause of concern to farmers who have previously called for them to be banned following cases of livestock being injured or killed from eating the metal parts accidentally chopped into animal feed during harvest, or getting caught in wire frames that have landed in fields.Lanterns have also been mistaken for distress flares at sea, placing a demand on the resources of HM Coastguard.

CFO Pearson added: “I’m pleased that councils in our local area recognise the risks posed by sky lanterns and are taking active steps to limit their use. This is a positive step and we will continue to work together to improve community safety in this area.”