Lancashire farmer Philip Halhead and countryside association plead with public not to light "flying bonfire" sky lanterns

A Lancashire farmer is urging the public not to use sky lanterns warning that their celebrations could turn to tragedy for farmers.

By Fiona Finch
Monday, 25th July 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Monday, 25th July 2022, 5:45 pm

Philip Halhead spoke out in support of the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) which has highlighted the fire risk caused by lanterns and says lighting them is akin to ‘fly tipping’ fire at random and they should be banned.

But it’s not just their potential to spark fires that is causing concern. It is also the danger the lantern’s wire frames pose to animals. Phil discovered one of his own cattle about to eat part of a lantern.

Philip, who farms at Norbreck Genetics, Norbreck Farm on Hillam Lane, Cockerham , near Lancaster, breeding pedigree Aberdeen Angus and British Blue cattle and Holstein dairy cows, said: “They need banning really. It’s just ridiculous. People set them off, usually in urban areas, they’re having a great time and they don’t realise they can stay alight for a very long time and at this time of year it’s highly dangerous.

Cockerham farmer Philip Halhead is warning of the dangers of sky lanterns to wildlife and cattle Photo: Dan Martino

"We’re back to parties and festivals and lots of weddings and that’s great, but please, the plea from farmers and landowners is think about what they are doing when lighting these.”

He continued: "One morning I was checking round the cattle last summer and I just arrived in a field to find one attempting to eat one of these lanterns. They’ve got metal in them and the metal would kill them. That’s one particular problem.”

He also cited a recent case near Abbeystead, Lancaster, where a farmer had gone into a field to bale hay and found a still simmering lantern.

Philip said: "Luckily it was just simmering and he managed to put it out. That could envelop a huge area very, very quickly in tinder dry conditions.”

Sky lanterns found in a farmer's field (Photo courtesy of CLA)

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He also noted that in areas such as Abbeystead there is much local heather and peat moorland at risk of fire too.

Last week’s record breaking high temperatures indicated an exceptional fire risk across the country according to the Met Office’s Fire Severity Index. The risk of fire, especially on hillsides, moors and heathland, was elevated by high temperatures, coupled with the long spell of dry weather.

The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) said there had been several fire incidents on farms in the last two weeks. One farmer in Bingley, West Yorkshire found 11 freshly launched sky lanterns in his mown hay field where hay was due to be baled.

Cockerham farmer Philip Halhead pictured with livestock at his Cockerham farm Photo:Dan Martino

CLA Director North Lucinda Douglas said: “It is absolutely incomprehensible that sky lanterns are released, especially at this time of year as it is literally akin to ‘fly tipping’ fire at random. An increasing number of local authorities are banning the release of lanterns from council-owned land, and we hope the Government will take note of a growing desire to see the use of these ‘flying bonfires’ banned outright...We have witnessed the devastating impacts wildfires fires can have, both on rural communities and farmers, as well as scarring the landscape and destroying wildlife. ”

The CLA also urged the public not to discard cigarettes, smouldering materials, bottles or shards of glass which can all spark fires and not to barbeque in rural areas but only in sheltered areas away from combustible materials, extinguishing barbeques fully after use.