Warnings over fire risks from ‘misguided’ sky lanterns campaign

Fire chiefs and Norfolk countryside campaigners have urged people not to use sky lanterns to show su

Fire chiefs and Norfolk countryside campaigners have urged people not to use sky lanterns to show support for the NHS. Picture: Chiang Ying-ying - Credit: AP

A “misguided” campaign to support the NHS by releasing sky lanterns could risk starting fires in the countryside and injuring farm livestock, fire chiefs and rural leaders have warned.

An online campaign has been circulating through social media asking for sky lanterns to be launched from gardens and driveways on Sunday evenings as a display of gratitude to health service workers fighting to save lives during the Covid-19 outbreak.

But the public has been urged to find other ways to demonstrate their appreciation for the NHS, as flammable lanterns carry a fire hazard that could put added pressure on already-stretched emergency crews as well as risking the safety of livestock, crops and thatched homes in the East Anglian countryside.

Cath Crowther, East regional director for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said: “Whilst I’m sure well intended, we would urge the public not to release sky lanterns as a way of showing appreciation for the vital work that nurses, doctors and other key workers are doing for us all.

“Sky lanterns can be a risk to livestock and pets if they land in a field or close to homes, litter the countryside and can also be a fire risk when our fire departments are already stretched.

“As the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’ has demonstrated so well, there are very simple ways that people can show their appreciation for the NHS that don’t pose a risk to others at this extremely difficult time for the country.”

READ MORE: Subscribe to our daily coronavirus newsletter, with all the latest from where you liveA National Farmers’ Union (NFU) spokesman added: “Although this initiative may be well-intentioned and aims to raise money for the NHS, sky lanterns pose a serious fire risk and a danger to animals who may ingest the debris.

“The NFU has campaigned against their use as we have heard from dozens of farmers over many years about the gruesome injuries sky lanterns have caused to their livestock and other animals, as well as devastating fire damage on farm to hay, straw and farm buildings.”

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The National Fire Chiefs Council said the “misguided” campaign came at a time when all emergency services are “under unprecedented pressure” due to Covid-19, and when wildfires are likely to be on the increase due to the weather conditions.

That message was echoed by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, which said sky lanterns are “potentially dangerous” and encouraged people “not to light lanterns but continue to show your support and appreciation through #clapforNHS”.