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Major fire service requests sky lantern legislation & large retailer removes them from sale – DEFRA ignores

08/07/2013 13:53:19

A fire caused by a sky lantern required nearly 40 fire engines; Two firefighters have been treated at hospital, and eight more were treated at the scene.

DEFRA safety measure for sky lanterns - "Check the wind first!"

July 2013. The West Midlands Fire Service has calling for an urgent review of the legislation regarding the use of airborne ‘fire' lanterns, shortly after the brigade tackled one of the biggest fires in its history, in Smethwick, which is believed to have been started by one of the lanterns.

They have also urged community leaders and members of the public to discourage the use of the lanterns, on the basis that they constitute a fire risk when released. There is evidence of them causing fires, wasting emergency services' time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading pilots and causing environmental damage. They also pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, camping activities, recycling sites and hazardous material sites.

The risk of further fires can only increase as the lanterns become more popular.

The West Midlands Fire Service said ‘We do not support the use of these devices, and ask that members of the public and event organisers stop using them'.

Australia ban
Internationally, certain brands of fire lanterns have been banned and there has been a temporary ban on all such products in Australia following a series of wildfires.

Major retailer drops Chinese lanterns
Poundland, the major high street retailer, said, "We constantly review our buying decisions in accordance to what's happening around us. After hearing the news about the fire in Smethwick we have made a decision to stop selling lanterns to our customers, and recalled all remaining stock from stores."
Wildlife Extra congratulates Poundland, and wishes more retailers would act responsibly.

DEFRA ignores the problem
Just in May, Defra released a report that stated the fire risk from Chinese lanterns was significant. The report stated that "Given that any of these individual incidents has the potential to cause significant disruption, loss of property and risk to human and animal life, the project team has concluded that fire risk associated with the use of sky lanterns is significant." Furthermore it stated that "CAA guidelines state that sky lanterns should not be released within 10 nautical miles of an airfield."

Yet Defra decided that Chinese lanterns shouldn't be banned! Sign an RSPCA petition here

DEFRA recommendations for use of sky lanterns - No, it isn't a joke
To make sky lanterns safer, DEFRA suggest a couple of ‘mitigation measures'

These were:

  • Improved user launch instructions indicating wind speeds over which lanterns should not be released (one product guidance note suggests 5mph max).
  • Not launching lanterns with damaged canopies, as this will lead to premature landing whilst still alight.

DEFRA also revealed that
Asked if there should be a ban on Chinese lanterns, the Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) said that it is important there is proportionate response to an event like this, but that safety is our overriding concern. The PMS pointed to figures from Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) showing the number of fires caused by Chinese lanterns is low ( A search for this led us back to the same DEFRA report).

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