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Covid-19: Fire chiefs warn against sky lantern NHS solidarity

Former Newbury MP: A bad idea on every level

The National Fire Chiefs Council has warned a campaign encouraging the public to light sky lanterns to show solidarity for NHS workers is ‘misguided’ and former MP and Englefield landowner and farmer Richard Benyon has responded on Twitter to one company calling to support UK NHS with Union Flag night sky lanterns saying it was “on every level, a bad idea”.

“We do not believe they should be used under any circumstances” particularly at a time when wildfires are likely to be on the increase due to the weather conditions, the statement added. It urges the public to look for alternative ways to show their support to the NHS.

Mr Benyon tweeted on Tuesday: “Please no! We haven’t had any rain for weeks, everything is tinder dry, emergency services have enough going on and the wire in these lanterns are dangerous for wildlife and stock if eaten. Oh and they become litter. On every level, a bad idea.”

Lanterns are a fire hazard; pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, thatched properties and hazardous material sites. Almost 90 local authorities across the UK have banned the use of lanterns.

NFCC chairman Roy Wilsher said: “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.

“All emergency services are currently under unprecedented pressure due to Covid-19, and I am concerned this type of activity could not only put additional pressure on the fire service, but further strain on the NHS.

“If a sky lantern causes a fire, it could see firefighters spending valuable time dealing with what could be a complex and large-scale incident. Time which could be spent supporting vulnerable people in the community, as part of the fire services response to Covid-19.”

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