The National Fire Chiefs Council has warned a campaign encouraging the public to light sky lanterns in a show of solidarity for NHS workers is ‘misguided’.
All emergency services are currently under increased pressure due to COVID-19. NFCC believes the suggestion that people should set off highly flammable lanterns – at a time when wildfires are likely to be on the increase due to the weather conditions – should be highly discouraged.
NFCC is urging the public to look for alternative ways to show their support to the NHS. Lanterns are a fire hazard; pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, thatched properties and hazardous material sites. Almost 90 local authorities across the UK have banned the use of lanterns.
NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher said: “While I fully understand people wanting to show their support to the NHS, I would encourage people to find a different way to do this.
“NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns and we do not believe they should be used under any circumstances.
“All emergency services are currently under unprecedented pressure due to COVID-19, and I am concerned this type of activity could not only put additional pressure on the fire service, but further strain on the NHS.
“If a sky lantern causes a fire, it could see firefighters spending valuable time dealing with what could be a complex and large-scale incident. Time which could be spent supporting vulnerable people in the community, as part of the fire services response to COVID-19.”
A fire in the West Midlands caused by a lantern saw 39 fire appliances and more than 200 firefighters in attendance to tackle it over a number of days.