Chinese lanterns can kill, says Rodmell farmer

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An East Sussex farmer is warning people against releasing Chinese lanterns as they can cause life-threatening fires, with the countryside tinder dry.

David Robinson of Northease Farm, Rodmell, near Lewes, was shocked to find that a Chinese lantern had landed in a barn used to store straw for cattle feed and bedding, right beside residential properties.

He said: “The Chinese lantern landed in my barn which is only about 30ft from the nearest houses.

“Luckily there wasn’t much straw in there but in another week or two there will be 4,000 big straw bales in this barn.

“The lantern could have incinerated everything nearby and burned folk to death in their homes.

“People should not be releasing these sky lanterns. They pose a huge fire risk and they threaten human lives.”

The NFU, Women’s Food and Farming Union (WFU) and Marine Conservation Society (MCS) have once more highlighted how sky lanterns can cause major fires and harm or even kill animals. Their pleas follow a massive fire at a recycling depot in the West Midlands on July 1.

NFU South East Environment and Land Use Adviser John Archer said: “This latest example of a Chinese lantern landing in a farmyard beside homes should be a wake-up call to people who release them without considering the consequences.

“Please don’t release sky lanterns – why would you want to put lives at risk? We know Chinese lanterns can cause fires on an industrial scale and we’d like to see them banned.”

Chinese lanterns can kill or injure farm animals. Lanterns fall into grass crops and the wire gets chopped up when grass is gathered and turned into animal feed. Sadly cows have died from ingesting the fine wire from lanterns.

The NFU continues to log problems caused by Chinese lanterns, to lobby for a ban.

It remains concerned about the bamboo frames used in many lanterns as they are prone to splintering. Animals can also become entangled in their robust frames.

In January 2011, a young calf was found with a bamboo framed lantern stuck on its head – it was in danger of choking and unable to suckle its mother’s milk.

Discount retailer Poundland withdrew Chinese lanterns from sale after one, not sold by the company, sparked the huge fire in the West Midlands.

More than 200 firefighters attended a blaze involving 100,000 tonnes of plastic in Smethwick.

The Government has refused to ban the lanterns nationwide.