Why sky lanterns are the wrong way to show support for the NHS

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Well-meaning Hartlepool households have been urged not to use sky lanterns, following online calls to release them to show support for the NHS.

A campaign suggesting their use has circulated on social media in recent days.

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However the social media posts have prompted fire chiefs to warn against using sky lanterns – which could create extra pressure for emergency services.

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Picture c/o PixabayPicture c/o Pixabay
Picture c/o Pixabay

Steve Johnson, Cleveland Fire Brigade Area Manager Prevention, said while they are proud to join residents in showing support for the NHS, the lanterns can be dangerous.

He said: “We regard the campaign encouraging the public to light sky lanterns in solidarity for NHS workers as misguided.

“Lanterns are a fire hazard and pose risks to animals, property and the environment as they can land anywhere and easily cause a fire.

“Almost 90 local authorities across the UK have banned the use of lanterns, they should not be used under any circumstances.”

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In December 2018 Hartlepool Borough Council neighbourhood service committee approved plans to adopt a policy calling for no balloon and sky lantern releases on council owned and managed land.

It followed a 14 week public consultation and awareness campaign which was carried out by the council to give people the chance to comment on the proposal.

Mr Johnson added: “All emergency services are currently under increased pressure and the last thing we need is to have to attend additional incidents, diverting our resources away from life threatening emergencies, or providing support to the vulnerable in our communities.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our communities and we are proud to join the public in showing our support for our NHS colleague via the weekly clap for carers.”

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The comments supported a statement from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) against the online campaign, stating it believes sky lanterns should not be used ‘under any circumstances’.

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.”

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He added: “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.”

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