Fire service warning over use of Chinese Lanterns in East Sussex

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East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is urging local residents and event organisers of the potential dangers posed by Chinese Lanterns.

It follows a huge fire at a West Midlands recycling plant this week which involved more than 200 firefighters, injuring ten. It caused around £6million damage.

It is believed it may have been caused by a Chinese Lantern, although the cause of the fire has not yet been established and is being investigated.

Earlier this year, a quick-thinking boat owner averted a major fire after a Chinese lantern landed on a yacht at Sovereign Harbour.

The crew on a nearby yacht spotted the blazing lantern after it landed on the sprayhood of a yacht in the marina. Fortunately, they managed to get rid of the lantern from the boat before any damage was caused

Chinese lanterns, also known as ‘sky lanterns’ are airborne paper lanterns, constructed from rice paper on a bamboo frame. They contain a small candle or fuel cell and when lit, the flame heats the air inside the lantern, thus lowering its density causing the lantern to rise into the air. The lantern is only airborne for as long as the flame stays alight, after which the lantern floats back to the ground.

Accoding to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, there is evidence of them causing fires, wasting police time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading aircraft and killing livestock.

In a statement, the Service said: “The risk of these occurrences will only increase as the use of Chinese lanterns increases.

“Whilst these lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, the potential damage they can cause is significant.”

Last year, Hastings firefighters released a warning of the dangers of celebrating with Chinese lanterns, following a fire at Marine Court.

A fire started after one drifted across from wedding celebrations on Hastings beach and became tangled in the security netting on scaffolding, sparking a fire.

Today, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman played down the damage caused by Chinese lanterns.

Speaking at his daily lobby briefing, he said: “My understanding is that the impact of fires is very small. The Prime Minister’s view is that it’s important that we always ensure the right level, the proportionate response to any particular event and always look at safety matters to make sure at the top of our concerns.”

Earlier, Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, said ministers should think about banning Chinese lanterns before they cause an “appalling tragedy” that leads to loss of lives.