Farmers and rural businesses joined the calls to stop the fire threat from sky lanterns in East Anglia's tinder-dry countryside, after a smouldering lantern was found in a wheat field near Dereham.

A spate of destructive field fires across the region have demonstrated the flammability of dry crops during the heatwave, and the damage that can be caused by a single spark or flame.

And it has added extra urgency for calls for sky lanterns to be banned, or for the public to consider the consequences of releasing them.

Mark Riches, of Beeston Brewery, said his wife saw a lit lantern fall to earth in a neighbouring farmer's field on the outskirts of Beeston on Tuesday evening, so he went to check if it had ignited the wheat crop.

'It was still smouldering, but luckily there was no fire,' he said. 'You have only got to look at the countryside to realise how dangerous this could have been.

'Virtually everything is flammable, so anything will set it alight. It is inevitable that if you release something like this it will set fire to something.

'Whoever released it was not thinking about the livelihoods of the people, or the livestock, and the poor firemen who have to go out and fight these fires. They do a great job, but while they are doing this they are not putting house fires out or saving people after car crashes.

'I am not against people having a good time, but just be responsible and have a think.'

Robert Salmon, another neighbouring farmer based at Fransham, added: 'It is unbelievable that people are releasing such things in these tinder-dry conditions. I believe there should be a ban placed on them as apart from the fire risk they pose they are also dangerous to livestock due to the sharp wire they contain being ingested by grazing animals.'

Earlier this week, members of Norwich's Green Party called for the lanterns to be banned by the city council, amid rising fears they could spark fires during the hot spell. Cabinet members said plans were already under way to ban the lanterns, which have already been banned by authorities including Norfolk County Council, Broadland District Council, North Norfolk District Council and West Norfolk Council.