FIRE chiefs today warned against lighting up the night sky with Chinese lanterns.
The ancient practice has become a UK garden phenomenon in recent years with mini paper hot air balloons being set off to help celebrate weddings, birthdays or merely the end of a family barbecue.
But after a string of incidents – including one in St Annes – Lancashire fire bosses are urging residents to think of the consequences.
Steve Morgan, Prevention Support Manager for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said lanterns have a potential for destruction.
He said: “There is no guarantee the fuel source will be fully extinguished and cooled when the lantern eventually descends and that presents a real fire hazard, having started four fires, typically by landing in dry vegetation, in the past 18 months in Lancashire.”
“Though that’s not a large number in itself reports from other parts of the country, including those of a lantern burning through the wall of a marquee at the Glastonbury Festival and a near miss on a roof at Winchester Cathedral, suggests it’s only a matter of time before a lantern starts a serious blaze in Lancashire.”
Recent incidents in Lancashire include one of the lanterns falling onto the roof of a petrol station, setting fire to a garden tree and dropping on to telephone lines in St Annes.
In Bamber Bridge, two lanterns were launched in the yard of a house during a late-night party.
Partygoers were distracted and did not see one of the lanterns blow onto fabric garden chairs.
A blaze developed against the kitchen wall and spread to a plastic air vent which then channelled the fire upwards and sideways into the cavity wall between the house and its neighbouring terraced property.
Fire officer Morgan added: “With recent experience of a week-long moorland fire at Belmont, we are only too aware of the way grass, shrubs and trees can easily and quickly ignite and burn with great ferocity.
“Lanterns can travel considerable distances and their flight direction and where they land is unpredictable, so there is a strong argument to ban their use altogether, which is the case in most parts of Germany and even in some provinces of their country of origin.”