Farmers are being warned to stay vigilant for sky lanterns endangering livestock and property as celebrations get under way for the Chinese New Year.
Festivities are due to last for two weeks from Monday (8 February) as Chinese communities across Britain celebrate the start of the Year of the Monkey.
Sky lanterns – usually made of rice paper with a bamboo or wire frame containing a lit candle or fuel cell – are a big part of the celebrations. But lantern debris can prove fatal to livestock.
If ingested, the frames can penetrate an animal’s digestive tract, leading to peritonitis, heart problems and in some cases death.
Some local authorities have banned lantern releases. Other councils are urging caution.
See also: Local council bans sky lanterns
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service said it wanted to wish everyone a happy Chinese New Year. But it called for restraint over sky lanterns.
Community safety manager Richard Priest said: “The festivities are very special to our Chinese communities and often take place over a number of days, but there are fire risks.”
Anyone planning to launch sky lanterns should be extremely careful, said Mr Priest.
“They can rise to more than 1,000 feet, fly for up to 20 minutes and float for miles before landing – think before you light.”
The NFU said it was urging everyone to celebrate safely and not to release sky lanterns.
“Please remember the dangers these lanterns pose to families, homes, crop fields, livestock and wildlife,” it warned.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which is also calling for a ban on lanterns, said lives as well as livelihoods were put at risk by the objects.
The CLA said it wanted people to enjoy the Chinese New Year, but to do so without the need to release sky lanterns – describing them as no more than flying fire hazards.
“Those planning to release them as part of their celebrations need to take a moment to seriously consider the significant risk lanterns pose,” it said.
“They also cause the emergency services enormous and unwanted problems.”