Horror as sky lantern festival planned less than 30 miles from wildfire

  • *UPDATE* The event has now been cancelled

    An MP has added her voice to calls to cancel a sky lantern festival due to “extremely hazardous” current conditions.

    Ruth George, Labour MP for High Peak in Derbyshire, has called on organisers of the Lights Festival at Buxton Raceway to pull the plug on the event.

    The US-based company organises lantern festivals across the States, Canada, the UK and Ireland.

    With no rain for weeks, the countryside is tinder-dry and firefighers across the country have been tackling grass fires, the most high-profile of which is less than 30 miles away on Saddleworth Moor.

    Ms George has written to the organisers asking them to cancel “in the light of extremely hazardous conditions”.

    Sky lanterns have caused numerous serious injuries to horses and other livestock, either through burns or by animals ingesting lantern parts.

    This week, H&H reported on a racehorse who suffered a serious leg injury after a sky lantern is believed to have hit her.

    A sky lantern festival, organised by the same company, that was due to take place at Belvoir Castle earlier this year, but was cancelled following public outcry.

    Meanwhile, BBC Radio One banned the release of sky lanterns and balloons at its Big Weekend in May.

    The Peak District National Park and Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service (DFRS) are among the other organisations calling for the cancellation of the Lights Festival. A change.org petition against the festival has also received more than 9,600 signatures.

    “We would like to see the Lights Festival stopped,” said a statement from the Peak District National Park.

    “We do not support the release of sky lanterns due to the potential impacts on wildlife and livestock, however our primary concern is now the risk of fire that is increased with the release of thousands of lanterns so close to the Peak District National Park boundary.

    “Although the lanterns are claimed to be biodegradable and with a short burn period, there is no further detail provided on this, and by their very nature, the travel and final location of lanterns remains indiscriminate.

    “To release thousands of naked flames into the sky when hundreds of firefighters and others are still battling flames in already tough conditions on the ground seems to go against all common sense.

    “Holding an event like this when we are actively asking people to take extra care to avoid fires, not to light barbecues and other precautions, seems to be a completely unnecessary risk.

    “In the current extremely dry conditions, it is likely that the remains of lanterns will still be present in the landscape for some time, during a key period where the wildlife breeding season reaches its close and livestock remain in open fields.

    This is an avoidable event that could lead to significant impacts on the wildlife, landscapes and livelihoods of the Peak District National Park.”

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    A statement from DFRS said it is involved in speaking with the organisers via the event’s safety advisory group.

    “DFRS is part of this group and a number of concerns have been raised about the event going ahead,” said a spokesman for the fire service.

    Every effort is being made to dissuade the event organisers from going ahead with the event.”

    A spokesman for the company told The Telegraph: “The rice-paper body of the lantern is fire-resistant to prevent the flame from travelling.

    “We have designed the fuel source in such a way that the flame is completely out before the lanterns descend and land.

    “Regardless, we always have a fire crew waiting in the landing zone as a precaution.”

    H&H has contacted the organisers for comment.

    In this week’s magazine, out on 5 July, don’t miss our bumper show guide issue, with complete show listings for 2018 plus features on keeping horses sound on hard ground, the best show venues in Britain and much more.

    In this week’s H&H interview, we talk to international event rider Izzy Taylor and check out our new feature ‘Fix it’ — Laura Tomlinson on improving a horse’s self-carriage. Read reports from across the disciplines over the weekend, including dressage action from Sheepgate, showjumping from Royal Highland and more.

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