Eight Chinese lantern fires in Norfolk in under three years


- Credit: AP

Chinese lanterns have caused eight fires across Norfolk in fewer than three years, according to official figures.

William Grant with the remains of the scorched Chinese lantern which landed inches from his thatched

William Grant with the remains of the scorched Chinese lantern which landed inches from his thatched cottage in Sloley. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Since October 2010 the decorative lanterns, which are released in the open during celebrations and memorials, have been responsible for incidents in Yarmouth, Norwich, Gorleston, Swaffham, Cromer, Loddon, Downham Market and Thetford.

Statistics released by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service reveal that seven of the incidents involved lanterns getting caught in, or hitting, trees, telegraph or electricity poles, and one was in a Downham Market property where a lantern set a rubbish bin alight.

Now, with harvest in full swing, a local farming chief has called for the lanterns to be banned to protect valuable crops and livestock.

The lanterns are usually made of paper, with a candle inside, supported in a wire or bamboo frame.

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The dangers they pose was graphically illustrated last month when one ignited 100,000 tonnes of plastic at a West Midlands recycling plant. About a week later, William Grant arrived home to find a scorched Chinese lantern lying inches from his thatched cottage in Sloley, near North Walsham.

Suffolk County Council figures show that there have been four Chinese lantern fires in the county since July 2009, including one in Lowestoft when rubbish on South Beach was set alight.

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Brian Finnerty, East Anglia NFU spokesman, said they supported a ban: 'We don't want to be killjoys but once let go these things can't be controlled.'

There had also been distressing incidents where cattle had died after eating the wire frames caught up in baled silage, he added.

Greg Preston, head of community safety with the Norfolk fire service, said they were concerned but were not calling for a ban. He urged people not to use lanterns during spells of dry weather. Mr Preston added: 'Although they're designed to be extinguished before they come down, it doesn't always happen - and we have a number of thatched properties in Norfolk.'

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