Warning on use of sky lanterns across Falkirk district

People are being urged not to light sky lanterns in support of NHS workers as it could place “unnecessary pressure” on the emergency services.

By Jill Buchanan
Thursday, 16th April 2020, 12:30 pm

A campaign, which calls for the public to release lanterns from gardens and driveways in support for the NHS, follows the popular #ClapForOurCarers social media campaign.

However, it comes days after the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) stressed that Scotland’s countryside is currently “vulnerable” to wildfire, and as the emergency services continue to support partners and protect the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Alasdair Perry, SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer, said: “We fully appreciate that people want to show their support for the NHS, however we must discourage the lighting of sky lanterns.

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Sky lanterns could do more harm than good

“These lanterns may look striking when lit, but when released they pose a significant threat of fire and can have devastating consequences – for rural environments, property and wildlife.

“This is clearly a challenging time for the emergency services due to COVID-19, and while the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service maintains a high resilience across Scotland, we would seek to avoid any unnecessary demand on our service so we can target our resources most effectively in supporting our partners and meeting the needs of Scotland’s communities.

“Traditionally, this is a period when we see a high volume of large wildfires in Scotland, due to a build-up of dead vegetation in our countryside, and rising temperatures. We can’t risk adding a potential ignition to that mix.

“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.

“Our message is clear: please do not release lit sky lanterns, and risk potentially placing unnecessary pressure on the emergency services.”

The Scottish SPCA has joined the call for people not to light these lanterns, warning it could endanger animals.

The charity says there are examples where farm animals have been injured or killed by swallowing fragments from sky lanterns. The lanterns may start fires when they land, which can endanger wildlife and their habitats. Birds can collide and get entangled with the lanterns, making it impossible to fly and killing them.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Sky lanterns put pets, wildlife and farm animals at risk of serious injury or even death.

“Lanterns may seem like a nice gesture and many people are likely unaware of the damage they can do. However, lanterns pose a serious threat to all sorts of animals and once they land they become litter. Animals can be caught up in the debris and get trapped. Even if the escape, these animals can get hurt in the process of doing so.

“Every single person in the Scottish SPCA fully supports the NHS and recognises the incredible effort they are making just now. We have so much respect and admiration for them.

“There’s lots of ways people can support our phenomenal NHS at the moment and we’d urge everyone to celebrate it in a way which poses less risk to animals and the environment.”

If anyone is concerned about an animal being injured by a sky lantern, they are being advised to phone the Scottish SPCA’s animal helpline on 03000 999 999.