Errant sky lanterns alarm farmers

FIRE HAZARD: Sky lanterns were found on two neighbouring Temuka farms. One was near a hay shed. Pictured with the remnants are, from left, New Zealand Fire Service fire risk management officer Kevin Collins and farmers Alister Lyon and Stephanie McCullough.
FIRE HAZARD: Sky lanterns were found on two neighbouring Temuka farms. One was near a hay shed. Pictured with the remnants are, from left, New Zealand Fire Service fire risk management officer Kevin Collins and farmers Alister Lyon and Stephanie McCullough.

Two South Canterbury farmers are urging people to think about the consequences of using sky lanterns after discovering half-a-dozen of the objects had landed in their paddocks.

Both Alister Lyon and Stephanie McCullough, who have neighbouring properties in Waitohi, near Temuka, found lanterns scattered around their farms on Sunday.

"Coming into summer, the last thing we need is to have these coming down around our crops," Lyon said.

For McCullough the discovery of one of the lanterns near a hay shed was especially concerning as she has had two previous hay shed fires - both deliberately lit.

"There's a lot of crops around here and any disaster on a farm causes a lot of mayhem ... mentally and physically.

"It makes us paranoid because of what happened previously."

Sky lanterns are becoming a popular addition at festivals and weddings.

They are made of delicate paper and have a fuel cell which is ignited to fill the lantern with hot air, causing it to rise.

The pair said while they didn't want to spoil anyone's fun they wanted people to think about the potential for disaster if they came down on dry vegetation or spooked farm animals.

"I don't want to come across like a grinch, it's just all about promoting fire safety," McCullough said.

New Zealand Fire Service fire risk management officer Kevin Collins said the lanterns were definitely a concern, from both a rural and urban fire service point of view.

"When people let them go they are really playing with fire," he said.

Collins said purchasing and using sky lanterns was not illegal, however, people needed to be aware of the "high risk" when using them.

"They are not controlled and can land anywhere. They are known to cause fires and the bottom line is whoever let's them go is responsible."

Principal Rural Fire Officer South Canterbury Rural Fire District Rob Hands had received requests from people wanting to use lanterns at weddings in the Mackenzie district.

"The Mackenzie Basin is definitely not a place to let them go.

"If multiple fires started it would be difficult to contain," Hands said.

"They can be a nice thing to use at celebrations, but people need to be aware if something goes wrong they will be held responsible for their actions."

The Timaru Herald