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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo
Chinese lantern

Fire caused by a Chinese Lantern

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A lit Chinese sky lantern landed on the plastic roof of a conservatory

A lit Chinese sky lantern landed on the plastic roof of a conservatory


Damage to the roof as seen from below

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Flammable materials beneath the plastic roof could have made this fire much worse

Flammable materials beneath the plastic roof could have made this fire much worse

How this fire happened

A lit Chinese sky lantern landed on the plastic roof of a conservatory.

It is believed that the heat from the burning fuel cell in the lantern melted the plastic roof causing molten plastic and component parts of the Chinese sky lantern to fall on to the conservatory floor.

This incident occurred in the very early hours of the morning and, consequently, the occupier was asleep at the time the lantern landed on the roof of his conservatory.

Fortunately, shortly after the lantern came to rest on the roof, the flames were spotted by a neighbour who then immediately called the fire service.

The fire service arrived to find several patches of smouldering plastic and the smouldering remains of the Chinese sky lantern on the floor of the conservatory.

The effect it had

Fortunately, one of the neighbours saw the fire and immediately called the fire service:

"At first I thought it was a carrier bag, and then I realised it was a Chinese lantern. You could actually see it burning, it was actually alight."

The watch manager attending the incident stated that:

"Initially I thought someone had thrown something on to the roof, but then when I got closer I realised it was one of these Chinese lanterns. Some of the plastic that had melted had dropped down onto the floor and was smouldering. Luckily it had landed on a tile floor, but if there had been a sofa or something flammable underneath it could have been a more serious fire."

The occupier of the property expressed his concern about the hazard posed by the incorrect use of Chinese sky lanterns:

"Well, I was in bed asleep and the fire brigade woke me up. It (the fire) was seen by my neighbour who called the fire brigade. Why anyone would want to buy one and set light to it in a built-up area is beyond me. They can be so dangerous; they can set your house on fire."

Safety message

Chinese Lantern

Chinese sky lanterns should always be used in accordance with manufacturers' instructions.

Generally,  this means that they should only be used well away from the coast, airports, houses, built-up areas, and farmland. 

The lack of control over where they will land and the fact that they will be hot and may keep burning after landing always needs to be considered, as does the fact that there have been several instances of horses, cows and sheep being seriously injured after inadvertently eating the wire frames of the lanterns.

Indeed, in comments made in 2010 by the then Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice he asked the British Hospitality Association to discourage the use of Chinese sky lanterns.

Furthermore, the Glastonbury Festival has a policy of discouraging their use.

Further information

The Chief Fire Officers Association 

The Chief Fire Officers Association takes a view on the use of Chinese Lanterns and discourages their use.

A BBC news item from 2010 

Chinese lanterns: Tranquillity masks a threat re-enforcing the need to take care when useing Chinese Lanterns.

Report by Kent FRS     

Kent Fire & Rescue Service's Fire Investigation and Research Team have produced a report on the results of test they have carried out on Chinese Lanterns.

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This case study was contributed by:

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Latest Update :
11 December 2014
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