Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Call for lantern review after blaze

West Midlands Fire Service is dealing with 'a very large and dramatic recycling fire' in Smethwick

There are calls for an urgent review into the use of Chinese lanterns after one started a huge blaze which caused £6 million-worth of damage to a recycling centre.

About 100,000 tonnes of material is burning at Jayplas recycling facility on an industrial estate in Smethwick, near Birmingham, in what is one of the largest blazes in the region in recent years.

Fire investigators have established a Chinese lantern - captured on CCTV falling on to the site - was to blame for the fire, which at its height was being tackled by more than 200 firefighters.

Vijith Randeniya, chief fire officer of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, said: "My forensics people have been here from the start and have reviewed CCTV and spoken to people and looked at the way the fire started and looking at the CCTV evidence, you can see a Chinese lantern floating gently, and then land and then eight minutes later you see the fire start."

He said the Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA) had previously called for a review of the use of the lanterns and said it was now time that "sensible people have a sensible discussion" about the issue.

"We don't want to be party poopers and we know they are used in a lot of celebrations," he said.

He added: "We have a situation where a fire has started here, £6 million-worth of loss, started by one of these lanterns and that was eminently preventable."

Following the blaze, the CFOA said "an urgent review" into the use of the floating paper lanterns was now needed.

In a statement it called for fire services nationally to look at the possibility of working with councils, police and trading standards officers to discourage the use of lanterns, including the possibility that licences for public events could be withheld if there are plans to release lanterns, and exploring whether legal claims for damages could be brought against people who release them.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement, the National Farmers Union (NFU), the Women's Food and Farming Union (WFU) and Marine Conservation Society (MCS) urged the public to "think twice" about using the lanterns because of the risk posed to livestock, wildlife, and the "numerous false alarms" when they have been mistaken for shipping distress flares off the coast.

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