Why sky lanterns are the wrong way to show support for the NHS

Well-meaning households have been urged not to use sky lanterns following online calls to release them to show support for the NHS.

Thursday, 16th April 2020, 4:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 1:30 pm

A range of bodies have warned of the dangers of lanterns, which can cause wildfires and serious damage to farms, livestock and the environment.

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Lanterns printed with a Union Jack flag are reportedly being sold online and advertised as a good way to show support for health workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

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However, the social media posts have prompted fire chiefs to warn against using sky lanterns – which could create extra pressure for emergency services.

Chief Fire Officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Chris Lowther, urged the public to “ditch this potentially dangerous idea.”

“While celebrating the incredible work of NHS staff and carers gets our full support, the best way to do it is to participate in the clap for carers,” he said.

“Lighting sky lanterns can cause additional pressure on our crews, and other emergency services.

“The land is very dry at the moment and these lanterns are known to hurt wildlife.

“So let’s keep on clapping and ditch this potentially dangerous idea.”

Lee Aspery, fire investigation and arson reduction manager at the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS), said: “ I am fully aware that people will want to show their personal and deep support for the NHS during this unprecedented time, but I would strongly encourage people to explore more creative and safer methods of demonstrating support and community cohesion’.

“I feel I must be very clear when I say that County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service does not advocate or support, in any way, the use of sky lanterns.

“Our County and the Borough of Darlington is blessed with a diverse ecology and some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK.

“Sky Lanterns present a risk, particularly in this period of warm and clear weather and could potentially draw our crews away from where they are needed to protect our communities.”

As well as homes, CDDFRS warned sky lanterns, also known as Chinese lanterns, posed a risk to the countryside, livestock and crops.

Their use is banned on local authority land in Wales and organisations including the RSPCA, National Farmers Union (NFU) and Marine Conservation Society have campaigned for this to be extended further.

The comments came following a statement from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) which branded the campaign to light sky lanterns in a show of solidarity for NHS workers as ‘misguided.’

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher said: “While I fully understand people wanting to show their support to the NHS, I would encourage people to find a different way to do this.

“NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns and we do not believe they should be used under any circumstances.

“All emergency services are currently under unprecedented pressure due to Covid-19, and I am concerned this type of activity could not only put additional pressure on the fire service, but further strain on the NHS.”

He added: “If a sky lantern causes a fire, it could see firefighters spending valuable time dealing with what could be a complex and large-scale incident.

“Time which could be spent supporting vulnerable people in the community, as part of the fire services response to Covid-19.”

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