17 October 2010
Firefighters are urging people to be careful with flying lanterns – also known as sky lanterns and Chinese lanterns – following an incident in Wendover on Sunday (17 October) night.
A lantern became caught on a telephone wire in Tring Road, close to a number of thatched properties, and a crew from Aylesbury had to be called out shortly before 10pm to extinguish it.
It is the second firework-related incident Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has attended since fireworks went on sale in a number of local shops on Friday. A public litter bin in Wiltshire Road, Marlow, was set on fire by a firework in the early hours on Sunday.
Flying lanterns, which are usually made of paper, wire and bamboo and contain a lit candle, can rise to more than 1,000 feet, fly for up to 20 minutes and float for miles before landing.
Terry Ridgley, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “You can’t control the direction they take or where they will land.
“There is no guarantee that the candle or fuel source will be fully extinguished and cooled when the lantern lands, and that’s a real fire hazard.”
He said unsuitable locations for flying lanterns included areas near telephone and power lines, areas near standing crops, anywhere near buildings with thatched roofs, areas of dense woodland and areas of heath or bracken.
As well as being a potential fire hazard, the lanterns often contain wire which can kill or injure animals, damage farm machinery or end up in animal feed. The lanterns have also tied up a lot of emergency service time because they are sometimes mistaken for UFOs or distress flares.
Flying lanterns have become increasingly popular in recent years and are often used for parties and corporate events or special occasions such as weddings and birthdays.
Their traditional use, mainly in Chinese and Thai celebrations, dates back thousands of years. It was believed that wishes written on the flame-powered lanterns would rise up to the heavens, bringing good luck and prosperity.