Ottery farmer’s Chinese lantern blaze fear

PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 August 2010

Firefighters were called to deal with an incident at Globefields, Topsham, this week

Firefighters were called to deal with an incident at Globefields, Topsham, this week

Archant

AN OTTERY retail heavyweight has banned flying Chinese lanterns from its shelves after a farmer’s discovery sparked fears the party favourite could scorch local crops.

John Vinnicombe has urged residents not to use the ornamental lanterns, which are powered by a flame, after he found two in fields at Woodford Barton Farm at the weekend.

Life-long farmer Mr Vinnicombe praised Otter Nurseries staff who took the item off of shelves within five minutes of him raising concerns. He visited every town trader to express his worries.

“They could light up a field of corn just like that,” he told the Herald.

Chinese flying lanterns, also known as sky lanterns, are miniature hot air balloons with a candle-like fuel cell inside. They are marketed for birthday, bonfire night and garden party celebrations, among others.

“My concern is they could not only burn down barns and crops but thatched houses,” said 72-year-old Mr Vinnicombe.

“I’d never seen one before- the burner was still on them. They are a problem.

“Corn and straw is so scarce this year, we could have lost that field.

“One I found was a dangerous threat to livestock because the main frame was made up of pieces of wire, to which the paper canopy was attached.

“It could have been picked up by the harvester and ended up inside our cows’ stomachs. They would die a slow painful death.”

“I went into every shop in Ottery, three traders said they had been approached to sell them. Kindly, Otter Nurseries immediately took them off of their shelves.”

An Otter Nurseries spokesperson said: “We took them off of the shelves within five minutes of the gentleman coming round and are not selling them any more.

“We didn’t stock a lot of them and sold less than a handful in five months.” Nobody has suggested the Gosford Road retailer sold the lanterns Mr Vinnicombe found.

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