Why We Are Asking People Not To Set Off Flares And Sky Lanterns & On Bonfire Night – 5th November 2020

We hope everyone is keeping safe and well!

We are aware sky lanterns (sometimes referred to as Chinese lanterns which are often used in birthday and weddings celebrations) are being advertised as an alternative to attending the traditional bonfire night gatherings/parties due to COVID-19 government lockdown restrictions.  The sky lanterns are often set off on or close to bonfire night 5th November.

What are Sky Lanterns and why are they hazardous to animals

The paper lanterns are small hot air balloons, powered by a flame suspended on a wire frame which represents a significant fire risk to life, property, birds, livestock and agriculture when they come down to earth so should never be used.

 

Cause of fires

In 2013 CCTV footage proved a sky lantern to be the cause of a fire at a recycling plant in the West Midlands. More than 200 firefighters and 39 fire appliances were deployed over several days to tackle the blaze involving plastics and paper.

 

Unnecessary Calls-Out’s for Lifeboat Crews and Coastguard Teams

Near the coast they may also be mistaken for distress flares causing unnecessary searches by our lifeboat and coastguard team colleagues. However, both search and rescue organisations are still ready to respond to genuine incidents, but do not need unavoidable calls putting their own and other lives at risk at this time.  Remember: What goes up must come down. If you do plan on releasing these lanterns near the coast, let the Coastguard know when and where.  As an alternative you could consider purchasing:

  • stationary candles and nightlights
  • static lanterns or outdoor lights
  • or planting a tree in memory of a loved one

 

Flares

Flares are a critical piece of sea safety kit, it is illegal to fire them in non-distress situation.  Every year lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams are called out to the sighting of flares out at sea or coast.  Flares are designed to be fired over water. If fired over land they can cause serious fires.  Bonfire Night can be a big night for unnecessary call-outs. Flares and lanterns are easily mistaken for distress signals and each sighting of a flare or lantern has to be investigated fully. This could divert search and rescue assets (lifeboats and Coastguard Rescue Teams) away from genuine emergency situation and can mean an exhaustive search in challenging conditions putting volunteers at further risk.

 

Thank you for reading, and from all of our team take care and stay safe!

 

Other useful references

How to sign-up to our monthly newsletter

How to dispose of out-of-date flares?

What’s the difference between the RNLI and HM Coastguard?

Still want to help support the RNLI during COVID19?

Acknowledgements

RNLI

HM Coastguard

RSPCA

Wildlife Conservation Trust Thanet