A ‘misguided’ campaign encouraging the public to light sky lanterns in a show of solidarity for NHS workers has been slammed by the Isle of Wight Council.
The council is urging people to look for other ways to support key workers, warning the lanterns are a serious fire hazard that pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, thatched properties and hazardous material sites.
The council shares the view of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) which believes the suggestion that people should set off highly flammable lanterns – at a time when wildfires are likely to be on the increase due to the weather conditions – should be highly discouraged.
NFCC chair, Roy Wilsher, said: “While I fully understand people wanting to show their support to the NHS, I would encourage people to find a different way to do this.
“NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns and we do not believe they should be used under any circumstances.
“All emergency services are currently under unprecedented pressure due to Covid-19, and I am concerned this type of activity could not only put additional pressure on the fire service, but further strain on the NHS.
“If a sky lantern causes a fire, it could see firefighters spending valuable time dealing with what could be a complex and large-scale incident. Time which could be spent supporting vulnerable people in the community, as part of the fire services response to Covid-19.”
A fire in the West Midlands caused by a lantern saw 39 fire appliances and more than 200 firefighters in attendance to tackle it over a number of days.
The government has also warned people against supporting the sky lantern campaign, saying ‘there are many other ways to support our NHS heroes’.
Among them is the Clap for Carers campaign – a minute long nationwide round of applause for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis every Thursday at 8pm.
Isle of Wight Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, said: “We owe the NHS and all the key workers a huge debt of gratitude and understand people want to show their support.
“Fires caused by sky lanterns are entirely preventable, and at a time when fire service crews are needed as an essential part of the Covid-19 emergency response – so we are urging Islanders not to buy or use sky lanterns but to continue showing their support for the NHS in other ways.
“We have seen a great response on the Island to the Clap for Carers campaign and I would urge people to continue to show their appreciation for the amazing work of our Island NHS and care services in this way.”