Sidmouth and Ottery Chinese lantern blaze warning

FARMERS and fire chiefs have warned Sidmouth and Ottery revellers that a popular airborne party piece could unwittingly lead to an inferno catastrophe.

The Ottery Herald revealed last week how a town retailer withdrew Chinese lanterns from its shelves when a farmer voiced fears the flying favourites could scorch crops and kill cattle.

John Vinnicombe urged residents not to use the ornamental lanterns after finding two in fields at Woodford Barton Farm.

Farmers Union chiefs want them banned across the country.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has joined forces with the National Farmers Union (NFU) to remind residents of the dangers of the flying lanterns- in particular the risks to crops and cattle.

The paper and wire constructions contain a wax candle that enables them to fly for around 20 minutes at heights reaching a mile up.

“Embers from the fuel cell can continue to glow for several minutes after the flames have gone out,” said a fire service spokesperson.

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“There is the very real possibility that hot, glowing embers can fall from the lantern as it flies and could land on people or animals.

“This means the lanterns have the potential to start a fire even in normal use, there is also the danger of fire starting due to improper use.”

Farmers like Mr Vinnicombe fear for fields full of standing dry crops, woodland and barns, as well as being a potential hazard to homes- especially those with thatched roofs.

“They could light up a field of corn just like that,” Mr Vinnicombe told the Herald, “corn and straw is so scarce this year, we could have lost a field.”

An NFU spokesperson said: “The overwhelming majority of NFU members feel the UK should follow the example set by other countries and ban them outright, thereby ending any possible future harm to livestock, wildlife and the environment.”

The NFU has received reports of harm to livestock, and in some instances death, caused by cattle ingesting the metal wires contained within the lantern frames.