Firefighters in Staffordshire are urging people not to release sky lanterns in support of the NHS due to concerns about wildfires and other damage.
Night Sky Lanterns, a manufacturer of the controversial devices, has been urging people to buy their Union Jack Sky Lanterns, saying the proceeds from the sales being donated to support the health service during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company has also asked people to launch the devices from ‘gardens and driveways of houses across the UK, every Sunday Night, until this unprecedented situation has been overcome’.
Fire services across the UK have opposed the proposal.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Becci Bryant said: “Sky lanterns cause wildfires, affect wildlife, damage crops and should be banned. Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service does not agree with them. It’s simple – do not set them off.
“Show your thanks to the amazing NHS in a safer way.”
A Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman added: “We echo the statement from our Chief Fire officer. Please do not use sky lanterns.”
A number of councils, including Stafford Borough Council, have banned sky lanterns from being launched from their land and the RSPCA is working to get them banned in other areas – but the devices remain legal in the UK.
In a statement on their website, Night Sky Lanterns defended their ‘Sunday night challenge’
They said: “While we recognise that sky lanterns have caused inconveniences to farmers and some member of the public, we strongly believe that all those concerns are associated with poor quality sky lanterns which are not equipped with the latest innovative components, like those used to build premium, supreme and Union Jack sky lanterns.
“In addition, we strongly advise our customers and those who intend to place an order to strictly follow guidelines and safety instructions highlighted at the end of this page and on the packeging. In particular, only use sky lanterns in appropriate weather conditions.
“As emphasised by experts of the Trading Standard Institute (Code of Practice – Sky Lanterns 2014), when used as intended in appropriate conditions and in small numbers, sky lanterns do not constitute a high risk. With a little care and consideration they can be enjoyed safely.
“We cannot guarantee that on Sunday the weather conditions would be suitable for releasing sky lanterns and this may be different across country and will need to be postponed to another day.
“For this reason, we have decided to include in each pack a Union Jack candle bags made with fireproof paper. However, please consider the possibility of using LED tea-lights to minimize the risk of fire from wax candles.”
In 2018 a planned event at Buxton Raceway which would have seen sky lanterns launched was cancelled after thousands of people signed a petition against it – following several large fires in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
A fire at a zoo in Germany that left dozens of animals dead on New Year’s Eve 2019 is also believed to have been caused by sky lanterns.
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