Chinese lanterns

This page gives advice about launching lanterns and balloons.
The Balloon Association also has guidance on balloon launches and the use of Chinese lanterns.

What are Chinese lanterns?

Traditionally used in Chinese and Thai celebrations, flying lanterns or sky lanterns are also known as ‘Khoom Fay’ or ‘Khoom Loy’ and have been used for thousands of years. The lanterns can fly for six to eight minutes and it is estimated they can reach heights of more than 1,000 feet and travel up to 1 mile.

Tamworth Borough Council does not encourage the use of lanterns due to the fire hazard and risk to wildlife.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has a safety guide for lanterns.

Risks associated with flying lanterns

‘Flying lanterns have the potential to set fires if it comes into contact with combustible material such as crops, gorse, grassland and wooden structures. A recent example of this occurred in the West Midlands where it is alleged that use of these lanterns caused a serious fire in a plastics factory. Even after the flames have ceased, there can still be glowing embers which can post a risk. Wind conditions also have a big influence on the direction of travel and could increase the risk of fire.

There is also considerable risk to wildlife. A number of cases have been reported where cows have died after eating the wire contained in the lanterns. This follows the lanterns falling in fields and the wire getting into feed.

Guidance for the use of flying lanterns

  • If you are using a lantern, do not launch it if any part is damaged. They should be launched by two adults - they are not suitable for children under 16 to light
  • Adults should not launch lanterns whilst under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that could affect their level of responsibility
  • Always have a fire extinguisher or water nearby
  • Children and other observers should maintain a safe distance upwind of the launch area

Launch conditions

  • Ensure sufficient clearance to avoid obstacles such as trees, power lines or buildings
  • Do not launch in built up areas and avoid launching near roads, especially major roads or motorways
  • Avoid standing crops, especially in dry conditions.
  • Do not launch in wind speeds in excess of 5 mph.
  • Check the wind direction prior to any launch.