Celebrate safely - sky lanterns pose a serious fire risk

With Chinese New Year taking place this weekend, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) is urging people to celebrate safely, and to remember that sky lanterns pose a serious fire risk.

MFRS is backing the Fire Kills campaign and is strongly advising people against the use of sky lanterns. Whilst they are undoubtedly popular, the potential damage they can cause is significant.

They use the heat of a naked flame to float, posing a significant fire risk to dryer areas, thatched properties and hazardous material sites. They also pose a danger to livestock and agriculture.

Whilst lighting and launch are mostly in the control of the user, the actual flight path and end destination are certainly not. There is no guarantee the fuel cell will be completely burnt out and sufficiently cooled when the lantern eventually descends so any contact with a flammable surface could easily start a fire.

There is evidence of them causing fires, being mistaken for distress flares resulting in taskings of the Coastguard Rescue Teams, misleading aircrafts and killing livestock.

For these reasons, the Fire Kills campaign and MFRS are encouraging people to take extra care if they really must ignite a sky lantern.

Area Manager Gary Oakford said: "We don't want to ruin anyone's fun but it's important that people are aware of the dangers sky lanterns pose and the devastating impact they could have. We would strongly advise against using sky lanterns, but if you do insist on their use, please refrain from releasing them in areas with standing crops, buildings and thatched roofs, areas of dense woodland and areas of heath or bracken, especially in dry weather."

Top tips for using sky lanterns safely:
• Keep the launch area clear of flammable materials
• Children and other observers must maintain a safe distance upwind of the launch
• Do not attempt to launch damaged lanterns
• Do not smoke or drink whilst handling lanterns
• Ensure enough clearance to avoid obstacles such as trees, power lines or buildings
• Avoid launching near roads, especially major roads or motorways
• Avoid crops, especially in dry conditions
• Do not launch in wind speeds in excess of 5mph
• Check wind direction before launch
• Be aware of any other local conditions that could affect launch or landing safety such as thatched buildings, crops or dry heathland
• Do not tie anything to the lantern as this may cause instability which could lead to the lantern igniting.

For more information, see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire-safety-when-celebrating or visit: https://firekills.campaign.gov.uk.