Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Dangers of Chinese lanterns highlighted by Eastbourne incident

Concerns have been raised over the safety of Chinese lanterns after one almost caused a fire on a boat in the Marina in Eastbourne.

Luckily, the crew on a nearby yacht spotted the lantern after it landed on the sprayhood of a yacht in the Marina. Even though the incident occurred on New Year’s Eve the safety messages still remain relevant.

One of the nearby boat owners said:

“I was on my boat in the Marina when one of the houses in the Maderia Way area of Sovereign Harbour South, let off a Chinese lantern, which floated over the Marina. Unfortunately, the lantern didn't get enough height to either go over the marina or the flats on the other side, and thus landed on a yacht on the same pontoon we were on!

“Luckily, I was there and my friend and I managed to get the lantern off the boat before any major damage was done. If we hadn’t been there it would have caused a major fire involving perhaps many boats.

“The next night, several lanterns were lit in the area and they headed towards the flats on Midway Quay – Sovereign Harbour North. Thankfully, they just managed to get enough height to miss landing on someone’s balcony.”

In light of this incident, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service would like to urge the public to be extremely cautious when using Chinese lanterns.
Chinese lanterns, also known as 'sky lanterns' are airborne paper lanterns, constructed from rice paper on a bamboo or wire frame. They contain a small candle or fuel cell and when lit, the flame heats the air inside the lantern, thus lowering its density causing the lantern to rise into the air. The lantern is only airborne for as long as the flame stays alight, after which the lantern floats back to the ground. 

There is evidence of them causing fires, wasting police time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading aircraft and killing livestock. The risk of these occurrences will only increase as the use of Chinese lanterns increases. Whilst these lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, the potential damage they can cause is significant.

Community Safety Manager, Steve Wright, said: "During the summer period, these lanterns pose an even greater threat. Locally, there has been concern raised about these lanterns landing in fields of dry crops. Obviously they have the potential to cause crop fires but there is also the chance of causing harm to livestock on consuming the remains of these lanterns once they have landed.

"East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service also has an example of a house fire in Kent, caused by a sky lantern on our Black Museum web pages highlighting potential causes of fire and gives important safety messages."

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