April 15, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

Buildings saved by fire crews after sky lantern destroys 14 vehicles at Launceston business park

The blaze at Launceston

Fire crews managed to save two industrial units from a blaze started by a sky lantern which destroyed 14 vehicles at a Launceston business park.

The incident took place at the Newport Industrial Estate in the town shortly before midnight on Wednesday, 21 June.

Crews from Launceston, Callington and Liskeard attended, using four pumping appliances to bring the fire under control and to prevent it spreading to nearby properties. 

An investigation, which included viewing CCTV images of the site, revealed that a lit sky lantern had landed on the windscreen wipers of a van, smouldered for a long while before the large fire broke out. 

In total 14 vehicles were destroyed by the fire. However, due to the expertise of the fire service, the two adjacent buildings were able to be protected while the fire was brought under control.

Sky lanterns have become popular for celebrations and events, but they can pose a serious fire risk. The paper lanterns contain either a a candle or a fuel cell filled with paraffin wax, which is suspended inside a frame of bamboo or wire.

Once alight, they float gently upwards and will drift away on the wind. As the fuel cell runs out they land but they can remain hot for a while afterwards. Depending on the strength of the wind they can drift for several miles and can reach nearly one kilometre in height.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service are calling on members of the public to avoid using these lanterns due to the damage that they can cause through fire and injury to wildlife.

Station Manager Scott Brown, the service’s protection officer, said: “The Met Office wildfire severity index is currently high or very high across Cornwall and the Southwest and we are asking everyone to remember the risks and to avoid using any type of sky lantern.

“The CCTV footage of the lantern landing on the vehicle and the photographs taken at the scene show how that one spark escalated into a large fire. We are sharing the images in the hope that people will remember the significant and costly consequences of these popular lanterns that once released, cannot be controlled or predicted.”

Cllr Martyn Alvey, the cabinet member with responsibility for the fire service said: “This was a fantastic effort by the fire crews, who prevented a serious blaze from spreading to nearby buildings.

“Cornwall Council has already banned the launching of sky lanterns from its land, and would urge other landowners and venues across Cornwall to do the same.  Not only are they a potential fire risk as demonstrated in this incident, they can also be extremely harmful to livestock and wild animals.”

Posted 4 July, 2023