Isle of Man Government
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Isle of Man Government Office of Fair Trading

Chinese or Sky Lanterns

The Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service (Fire Service) and the Isle of Man Coastguard Service (Coastguard) are warning consumers about the dangers of Chinese or Sky Lanterns.

The lanterns which are available in the Isle of Man are generally made of paper, supported by a frame and are powered by a solid fuel burner. They have become very popular over the last few years for celebrations such as weddings and birthdays.

The lanterns do however pose a range of dangers. In the UK a young boy was scalded in the face by molten fuel which fell from a lantern floating overhead (see: Another frightening incident involved a lantern landing on the roof of a property and setting it on fire – the house was occupied by a mother and her two children. There have been a number of reports of farm animals who have died from eating the wire frames from the lanterns which have burnt out and landed in their fields.

The issue is of such concern to fire authorities that the UK based Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has issued the following statement:-

“The Chief Fire Officers' Association urges Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) to discourage the use of the floating paper lanterns on the basis that they constitute a fire risk when released. There is evidence of them causing fires, wasting police time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading aircraft and killing livestock.

The risk of these occurrences will only increase as the use of Chinese lanterns increases. CFOA does not support the use of these devices and asks members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them. Whilst these lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, the potential damage they can cause is significant.”

Sub Officer Peter Killey from the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service’s Community Safety Team confirmed the CFOA views, “No-one wants to be a killjoy but the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service is very concerned that before long we are going to have a serious incident caused by these lanterns. Whether this is a property fire, a fire in the countryside, personal injury or injury to wildlife and livestock - the more these lanterns are used the more likely it is that an incident will occur. Public Safety is of paramount importance to our Service and therefore we do not support the use of these Chinese or Sky Lanterns and ask members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them”.

John Peet, Chief Trading Standards Officer said “Safety instructions for the use of these lanterns are complex. Amongst other things they require the user to assess wind conditions; ensure their clothing is not flammable; not to release the lanterns within a certain distance of a major road or an airport; not to use the lanterns if there is any damage to the delicate paper shell or the frame; not to use the lantern anywhere where its glow could be confused with a distress signal. All of these conditions need to be taken seriously to ensure the safety of the user, other people, animals, property and the countryside. Our advice would be to avoid these products”.

Mr David Callister MLC, Member for the Department of Infrastructure also expressed concerns about the use of the lanterns “These lanterns can be confused with distress flares used to signal emergencies at sea. This in the past has led to Coastguard teams being called out to investigate, which can be very time consuming and costly. To try and reduce this problem, IOM Coastguard has over the last year and in partnership with several Isle of Man suppliers, issued Coastguard advice in the form of a sticker on the lanterns packaging. The advice given requests that before release, people should contact the Marine Operations Centre (MOC) on 01624 686628, stating how many lanterns are to be released and where from. This initiative has been very successful with a marked decrease in call outs for lantern related incidents, and our thanks go to those people who have taken the time to call the MOC prior to releasing their lanterns.

I would however still strongly advise the public that if they see an object they suspect as being a distress flare to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

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