Kent Fire and Rescue Service do not recommend the use of sky lanterns (known as Chinese lanterns) due to the fire hazards and risks they pose to property, crops, livestock and the environment.
Dangers of sky lanterns
These lanterns have been known to start fires – some very major. If the lantern does start a fire there is the possibility that you could be held responsible. Some local authorities have banned the lanterns in their areas and there is a complete ban on the lanterns in Germany and Australia.
Wildlife and livestock
The National Farmers Union has received numerous reports of harm to livestock, and in some instances death, caused by cattle ingesting the metal wires contained within the lantern frames. The danger and the repercussions of digestion are not realised until after the animal falls ill, usually ending in a slow and painful death unless destroyed by a vet. The small pieces of metal wire the lanterns are made of are not detectable by the metal detectors on the silage making machinery.
As a coastal county, there is also a danger that these lanterns can be mistaken for a distress flare which has happened elsewhere. All sightings of red flares, which are sent up by boats in distress, are investigated by local coastguard volunteers. False alarms are a waste of valuable resources which could also put others in danger.
However if considering these risks you still decide to use these lanterns, please take the following measures:
- Ensure sufficient clearance to avoid obstacles such as trees, power lines or buildings.
- Avoid launching near roads, especially major roads or motorways.
- Avoid standing crops.
- Do not launch within five miles of an airport.
- Do not launch in wind speeds in excess of five mph.
- Check wind direction before launch.
- Lanterns should be used by responsible adults only.
- Adults should not be under the influence of alcohol or any substance that could affect their level of responsibility.
- Water should be on hand in case the lanterns catch fire.
- The launch area should be kept clear of combustible materials.
- Damaged lanterns should not be used.