Fury as fire lantern found just 15 miles from where blaze destroyed homes

Michael and Sue Jeffery, from Binham near Fakenham, discovered the lantern on the front path outside their home on July 15.

Michael and Sue Jeffery, from Binham near Fakenham, discovered the lantern on the front path outside their home on July 15 - Credit: Michael Jeffery

A desperate plea has been made for people to think carefully about potential fire risks after a couple were stunned to find a used fire lantern on their doorstep - a few miles from where a blaze destroyed numerous Norfolk homes.

Michael and Sue Jeffery, from Binham near Fakenham, discovered the lantern on the front path outside their home on July 15.

They have told of their anger at the discovery after this week's heatwave led to around 20 homes across Norfolk being destroyed by fires. This included homes at Brancaster - just 15 miles from where the couple live.

With more hot weather forecasted over the weekend, with highs of 31C, Norfolk Fire and Rescue has stressed the need to be safe and responsible to avoid causing similar incidents seen this past week.

A spokesman for the service said: “Hot and dry conditions such as those that we are currently experiencing cause an increased fire risk."

Michael and Sue Jeffery, from Binham near Fakenham, discovered the lantern on the front path outside their home on July 15

Michael and Sue Jeffery, from Binham near Fakenham, discovered the lantern on the front path outside their home on July 15 - Credit: Michael Jeffery

Sky lanterns are already recognised as one of the biggest fire risks, however there have also been reports of people lighting disposable BBQs in hot and dry weather and throwing cigarettes out of windows.

Norfolk County Council (NCC) has already banned the release of lanterns on any land or property owned by them in 2015, with one of the reasons cited as they pose a significant fire hazard to buildings, woodland and farmland.

Back in 2019, NCC launched another charter, asking people to ditch the lanterns.

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They once again cited the fire risk - with figures from three years ago showing that Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service had been called to six reports of fires caused by sky lanterns since June 2014.

Brancaster fire

The row of former council houses which was destroyed in the fire at Brancaster - Credit: Chris Bishop

Three of the calls related to sky lanterns in trees and in one incident a lantern set alight to 200 square metres of marram grass at Waxham.

“How irresponsible can some members of the public be,” Mr Jeffery said.

“When we discovered it, we felt extremely angry due to the current situation with regard to fire risk.

The aftermath of a field fire in Ashill which has also destroyed a number of homes.

The aftermath of a field fire in Ashill which has also destroyed a number of homes. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

“These could be extremely dangerous for our area, especially with very many dry fields around the village.

“We are now really worried, as it is a danger that we had not thought about until finding the lantern this morning.

“To anyone who might be thinking of using one, please do not even contemplate using these dangerous lanterns.”

Margaret Dewsbury, chair of Norfolk County Council's communities committee. Pic: Sean Owen (Reflecti

Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for Communities and Partnerships - Credit: Sean Owen (Reflective Arts)

Margaret Dewsbury, county council cabinet member for Communities and Partnerships, added: “You'd think people would realise that these lanterns are even more dangerous when they land.

“We have been trying to warn people about all the things we don't want them to do during this weather - as well as what to do to keep safe.

“The lantern only has to land somewhere, like in a tree or on a dry field, and it could spread very quickly to rows of houses and cause similar incidents to which we have seen over the past few days.

“It has been quite frightening this past week, and to think someone has not thought that through before setting off a lantern is worrying.”

Fire safety advice

  • Do not use disposable barbecues on dry grass
  • Cigarette ends can also ignite greenspaces quickly in this heat.
  • Never stub out your cigarettes on grass or in woodland areas, the embers can quickly ignite the dry ground and cause a wildfire. 
  • Please always dispose of cigarettes responsibly in appropriate bins.
  • If you do spot a wildfire, get a safe distance away from the blaze and ring 999 right away and ask for the fire service, giving us your location. 
  • Do not release sky lanterns.