People in Northamptonshire have been warned about the dangers of Chinese lanterns following the fire at a Smethwick recycling plant last weekend.
The fire, which is thought to be one of the largest ever in the West Midlands and injured 10 firefighters, was caused by a Chinese lantern.
The Arson Task Force, a Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Police partnership, strongly advises that people stop using the lanterns.
The lanterns have the potential to damage, injure or kill. They have been known to fall from the sky in flames, and can ignite any combustible material such as a thatched roof or garden.
These miniature hot air balloons are constructed of paper, wire and bamboo with a fuel cell attached and hung beneath the paper balloon. When the fuel is lit, the hot air inflates the balloon and it floats into the sky.
Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service head of community services Mark Ainge said: “We have serious concerns over the use of these lanterns and strongly advise everyone to act responsibly and stop using these dangerous items.
“They can travel as far as 15 miles, so even if you think you are releasing one in a ‘safe’ area, you don’t know where they will land.”
The Arson Task Force has been highlighting the dangers of these lanterns since 2009. The county has seen a number of serious incidents occur as a result of the lanterns since then,
most notably an incident last year where a lantern set fire to the guttering of a three storey block of flats in Northampton, and a separate incident where a lantern fell from the sky and set fire to some garden furniture.
The lanterns also pose a serious threat to wildlife, and an animal in East Northamptonshire had to be put down after ingesting some wire from a lantern which had landed in field.
The lanterns are banned in some countries, and the Arson Task Force are currently gathering evidence with the aim to have the lanterns banned in the UK as well.
Mr Ainge said: “It’s just a matter of time before they cause a serious incident in Northamptonshire.”