“Don’t use them”: UK fire chiefs call for cancellation of sky lantern festivals due to safety concerns

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Fire safety watchdogs urge halt to sky lantern events in London and Birmingham

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) is actively urging the cancellation of upcoming sky lantern festivals in London and Birmingham, scheduled for May and June, citing severe fire safety risks.

These events, expected to see hundreds of lanterns released followed by fireworks, have been a longstanding concern for the NFCC due to the uncontrolled risk posed by the naked flames used in sky lanterns.

International bans and local safety incidents

Countries such as Australia and Germany have already implemented national bans on sky lanterns.

The NFCC highlights past incidents, including a major fire at a West Midlands recycling plant in 2013, which was ignited by a sky lantern and required extensive emergency response.

These incidents underline the dangers associated with such lanterns despite claims of enhanced safety measures by event organisers.

Responses from organisers and ongoing safety advice

Event organisers argue that their “custom lanterns are designed with the utmost safety in mind”.

However, the NFCC maintains that no sky lantern is safe for use.

Mark Hardingham, Chair of the NFCC, said: “Sky lanterns have been proven to start wildfires and property fires, kill or injure livestock, as well as polluting our natural environment.

“NFCC does not believe any such lanterns should be used under any circumstances. Our advice is simple – don’t use them.”

Media scrutiny and legal confusion

Further complicating matters, there are media reports suggesting the lantern events might be a scam, with trading standards investigating the claims—a contention disputed by the Lantern Festival UK.

Additionally, the event’s website incorrectly warns that purchasing lanterns outside the venue could lead to prosecution, a statement that has been refuted as fire services do not have such prosecutorial powers.

IFSJ Comment

The persistent advocacy by the NFCC against the use of sky lanterns reflects a broader commitment to public safety and environmental protection.

Despite reassurances from event organisers regarding safety improvements, the inherent risks associated with these lanterns, coupled with historical precedents of harm, support the council’s stance.

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