Warning after Chinese lantern sets roof on fire

Devon Fire and Rescue Service issues warning over use of lanterns in residential areas.

DEVON and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has issued a warning over the use of Chinese lanterns in residential areas following a roof fire in East Devon on Wednesday.

Two appliances from Exmouth fire station were called to attend the blaze caused by a Chinese lantern.

Nigel Deasy, a community fire safety officer, said: “Chinese lanterns, along with wish lanterns, are made of paper, often non-fire retardant, supported by a wire frame with a holder at the bottom for a solid fuel cell.

“We are fortunate the incidents we have attended involving Chinese lanterns have not been serious and we have been able to deal with them effectively. These lanterns have the potential to start a fire even in normal use as well as the possibility that hot, glowing fuel could land on people or animals.”

Research has shown that, in some cases, embers from the fuel cell can continue to glow for several minutes after the flames have gone out.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) has recently been working in partnership with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) due to the concerns that the lanterns present not only to the farmers crops, woodland moorland and barns, but also to their cattle.

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The NFU has received numerous reports of livestock being harmed, and in some instances death, caused by cattle ingesting the metal wires contained within the lantern frames.

The fire service says the danger and the repercussions of digestion are not realised until it is too late and the animal falls ill, usually ending in a slow and painful death unless destroyed by a vet. In addition, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have asked people to let them know in advance if they are planning to let off any lanterns in coastal areas as they often are mistaken for flares.

Although the lanterns are not banned - there is already a complete ban on the lanterns in Germany and Australia - DSFRS would not recommend their use.