Support the NHS without fire lanterns

Sky lanterns pose a risk to wildlife, farm animals and the countryside, as well as putting extra pressure on our fire service.

Trust officers are concerned that lanterns, being flown as a show of support for NHS workers during the COVID-19 lockdown, could cause serious problems for wildlife.

Fire lanterns are paper-covered wire or bamboo structures which are powered by a flame inside. They can frighten and kill birds if they get tangled up in the wire or string attachments, and there is a choking hazard if animals see the material as food. Of course, there is also the fire risk.

Director of Conservation, Tim Mitcham, said: “Apart from the littering and wildlife-scaring aspects, having driven over the West Pennine Moors yesterday, surely one of the risks of fire lanterns is moorland fires - it is still a tinderbox up there. Streams are running dry and reservoirs are low. So to send a burning lantern up there is a great risk.”

Fire on Darwen Moor by Alan Wright

Fire on Darwen Moor by Alan Wright

Campaigns Manager, Alan Wright, added: “Our staff and members will be on their doorsteps tonight, clapping and banging tins in support of the courageous and outstanding job being done by our NHS workers and other care staff.

“However, we would encourage people not to use fire lanterns because of the damage they can cause. We don’t want our support for the health workers meaning more work for other emergency workers like the fire service.”

As an alternative, Tim suggested: “It would be wonderful to ask people to make stationary, decorated lanterns that can be used on the street during the clapping in support of the NHS. Photographs could record their beautiful designs and could be displayed on our website and on TV.”

The RSPCA reports that 200,000 lanterns are flown each year, which do untold damage to the countryside. The Wildlife Trust supports calls by the RSPCA to #EndSkyLitter, and calls by the fire service to ask people to stop using sky lanterns.

Moorland fires devastated many square miles, killing hundreds of thousands of creatures, during the hot summer of 2018, and there has already been a tragic fire on Darwen Moor this year.