Lanterns ‘a serious, serious problem’

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A FARMER is warning people about the danger to livestock and the fire hazards that Chinese lanterns pose.

The aerial torches, that use the heat created from a burning flame to lift an attached paper canopy, can travel for miles on air currents.

But it is the dangers they present when they land that are causing concern as they can spark a fire risk and kill cows.

Farmer Charlie Wray, who runs Wayside Farm in Kings Langley with his wife Barbara, said: “They are a serious, serious problem. People don’t even comprehend the potential danger of them.

“If they land in a field, especially during a dry spell like it’s been recently, they have the potential to start a terrible blaze.

“They’re also a serious risk to cattle. If they get chopped up in a mower and end up in the feed, then the small pieces of wire will tear the intestines, causing an infection. Then that’s it, a dead cow.”

Charlie, 60, is one of the few remaining dairy farmers in the county.

“The lanterns are beautiful as they come through the sky, but people don’t realise the danger they can cause.

“I had one lantern drop around 10 feet away from my large supply of straw. If that had gone up if would have been a disaster.

“They will start to come down as the flame goes out, but they are still alight and could easily hit a tall structure.

“They have a horrendous amount of flame. If the canopy fails, the fuel cell will burn for a set amount of time, regardless of whether or not the lantern is still in the air

“I also found one in a field next to the Buncefield oil storage site. Now the potential danger there is really scary.”

Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning has backed the call.

He said: “They are a real concern, but a blanket ban would be difficult to enforce. We need to win the argument, and make people realise that Chinese lanterns are a hazard.

“We don’t want to spoil people’s fun, but they have to realise that their fun can have serious consequences in rural areas.

“Five minutes of fun could have a devastating effect.

“I’ve raised the issue with the Secretary of State and will be promoting awareness as much as possible.”