QUICK-THINKING boat owners managed to avert a major fire after a Chinese lantern landed on a yacht berthed at Sovereign Harbour.
The crew on a nearby yacht spotted the blazing lantern after it landed on the sprayhood of a yacht in the marina. Fortunately they managed to get rid of the lantern from the expensive boat before any damage was caused.
One of the boat owners explained: “I was on my boat in the marina when one of the houses in the Maderia Way area of Sovereign Harbour South let off a Chinese lantern which floated over the Marina.
“Unfortunately, the lantern didn’t get enough height to either go over the marina or the flats on the other side, and landed on a yacht on the same pontoon we were on.
“Luckily, my friend and I managed to get the lantern off the boat before any major damage was done. If we hadn’t been there it would have caused a major fire involving perhaps many boats.
“The next night, several lanterns were lit in the area and they headed towards the flats on Midway Quay – Sovereign Harbour North. Thankfully, they just managed to get enough height to miss landing on someone’s balcony.”
News of the incident, which happened on New Year’s Eve, has only just been released by East Sussex Fire & Rescue. The fire service has warned the public to be careful about the use of Chinese lanterns while insisting they would prefer they were not let off because of the potential damage which could be caused.
Community Safety Manager, Steve Wright, said: “During the summer period, these lanterns pose an even greater threat. Locally, there has been concern raised about these lanterns landing in fields of dry crops. Obviously they have the potential to cause crop fires but there is also the chance of causing harm to livestock on consuming the remains of these lanterns once they have landed.
“East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service also has an example of a house fire in Kent, caused by a sky lantern on our Black Museum web pages highlighting potential causes of fire and gives important safety messages.”
Chinese lanterns, also known as sky lanterns, are airborne paper lanterns, constructed from rice paper on a bamboo or wire frame.
They contain a small candle or fuel cell and, when lit, the flame heats the air inside the lantern, lowering its density so causing the lantern to rise into the air.
The lantern is only airborne for as long as the flame stays alight, after which the lantern floats back to the ground.
East Sussex Fire & Rescue claimed there was 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 once the use of Chinese lanterns increase, they insist.
In a statement, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service said: “We do not support the use of these devices and ask 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.
The Chief Fire Officers’ Association is also discouraging the use of the floating paper lanterns on the basis that they constitute a fire risk when released.