Urgent warning after sky lantern blaze destroys 14 vehicles


An urgent warning has been issued after a single sky lantern destroyed 14 vehicles.

The stray lantern started a huge fire at a business park in Cornwall after it landed on the windscreen wipers of a van. Two neighbouring properties were narrowly saved by fire teams who raced to the scene to battle the blaze.

A review of CCTV footage from the night shows the lantern land, starting to smoulder - and then set light to the first vehicle. Cornwall Council says that sky lanterns have become popular for celebrations and events - but that they can pose a serious fire risk to homes, tents and wildlife.

The paper lanterns, which float into the sky when lit, contain candles or paraffin wax, usually suspended on a bamboo or wire frame. When the fuel for the lanterns is exhausted, they eventually land on the ground - often after travelling several miles and up to a kilometre in height.

The incident on Wednesday, June 21 was attended by fire crews from Launceston, Callington and Liskeard. Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service have now warned the public against using them.

Station manager Scott Brown, the service's protection officer, said: “The Met Office wildfire severity index is currently high or very high across Cornwall and the South West and we are asking everyone to remember the risks and to avoid using any type of sky lantern.

"The CCTV footage of the lantern landing on the vehicle and the photographs taken at the scene show how that one spark escalated into a large fire.

"We are sharing the images in the hope that people will remember the significant and costly consequences of these popular lanterns that once released, cannot be controlled or predicted."

Cllr Martyn Alvey, Cornwall Council cabinet member with responsibility for the fire service said: “This was a fantastic effort by the fire crews, who prevented a serious blaze from spreading to nearby buildings. Cornwall Council has already banned the launching of sky lanterns from its land, and would urge other landowners and venues across Cornwall to do the same.

"Not only are they a potential fire risk as demonstrated in this incident, they can also be extremely harmful to livestock and wild animals.”

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