South Elmham farmer’s warning after Chinese lantern incident

A QUICK-THINKING farmer managed to avoid a potentially devastating incident after a Chinese lantern descended on his farm.

Jack Walpole, who owns Old Hall Farm in South Elmham, watched the lit lantern descend on to his land where it immediately started to smoulder.

He said: 'I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Very fortunately I was in the right place at the right time. I was able to run over to the affected area and intervene before a fire developed.

'If I had not been there I dread to think what would have happened. A fire would almost certainly have started and spread across the field resulting in the loss of my crops and the destruction of most of my equipment. I was lucky this time but other people may not be. I think it's easy to forget how dangerous these lanterns can be.'

In recent years, the mini paper hot air balloons have become extremely popular and are often set off at weddings, birthdays, festivals and even as memorials to pay tribute to a loved-one. But although spectacular, the lanterns have the potential to be extremely dangerous and bosses from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service are urging people to think twice before releasing one into the air.

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Since last summer, 10 Chinese lantern related incidents have been reported across Suffolk.

County councillor Colin Spence, portfolio holder for public protection, said: 'Once these lanterns have been set off, they are unpredictable and cannot be controlled. When the lantern eventually descends it could present a real hazard if the fire has not been properly extinguished.

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'This is particularly worrying during the dry summer months when grass, shrubs and trees can easily ignite and burn out of control very quickly. Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service very strongly urge people to avoid using Chinese lanterns. However, if anyone does choose to use these items, they must do so very carefully and closely follow the supplier's guidelines.'

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