‘Flying bonfires’ can kill, warns farmer

JPCT 11-09-12 S12370092X Buck's Green. Rob Hayden. Chinese lantern. Sheep got ensnared in wire.  -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 11-09-12 S12370092X Buck's Green. Rob Hayden. Chinese lantern. Sheep got ensnared in wire. -photo by Steve Cobb

Chinese lanterns have been ‘dropped like something during the war’ on to one farmer’s land for the second time this year.

Rob Hayden, of Anchorage Farm in Haven Road, Bucks Green, said he checked his livestock on Sunday morning to find the wiring of a festive light tangled around the legs of a sheep.

Another lantern was discovered nearby.

But this is not the first time his livelihood has been put in danger from what he describes as ‘flying bonfires’.

In April this year a lantern narrowly missed the barn he was sleeping in during lambing season.

This time, however, one animal was not so lucky.

“It does exactly the same thing as a snare,” said the frustrated farmer, who only noticed the wire wrapped around a sheep because of the colourful tissue paper on its hoof.

“It was injured and limping. You wouldn’t be able to see the wire and eventually it would kill the animal.”

One eyewitness told Rob the lanterns flew over on Saturday night just yards away from his hay-filled stable, home to 22-year-old Casper the donkey.

“Casper would have burned to death,” he continued.

“People ought to think about what they’re doing and think maybe that’s not a good idea, because ultimately the worst thing that could happen is a human fatality.”

Rob believes the issue of Chinese lanterns should be considered by the government.

“It’s like setting light to a flying bonfire, they’re dropped like something during the war - it’s the same principle.

“I would say that they might look quite pretty, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

During the Jubilee celebrations earlier this year, the National Farmers Union asked members of the public not to set the lanterns off.

Richard Hezlet, a regional director at NFU, explains: “However delightful and exciting it is to let off these lanterns and watch them floating away into the night sky, they have to land somewhere.

“The problems they cause farm animals, wildlife, the environment, buildings and the emergency services can be immense.”

The County Times has reported on numerous cases of people believing they have had a genuine close encounter of the third kind, when it in fact, turned out to be a Chinese lantern.

In October last year, Horsham residents were convinced they had been visited by extra terrestrials after a series of unexplained bright lights lit up the sky.

This burst into a flurry of online chatter, where many took to Facebook to seek answers from other members.

But other users queued up to bring the alien spotters back down to earth, informing them that their strange sightings were almost certainly caused by Chinese lanterns.

At the time, one person closed the conversation by warning: “If it’s orange and drifting slowly on the wind, it’s a Chinese lantern.”