A CALL has been made to ban sky lanterns amid concerns they could cause a devastating fire in one of the region's many high risk industrial areas.

The plea was made by former fireman and Redcar and Cleveland Borough councillor John Hannon and has been supported by one of Cleveland’s most senior firefighters.

Members of the council backed a motion put forward by Cllr Hannon calling for the government to ban the sale of sky lanterns on safety grounds.

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Seven sites in the borough are classed as Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) by the Health and Safety Executive due to the high number of petro-chemical and industrial facilities.

Coun Hannon said: “Sky lanterns are much like miniature hot air balloons that are constructed of tissue paper with a heat source at the base of the lantern, such as a wad of cotton fabric soaked with a combustible material.

“There are seven COMAH sites in the Redcar and Cleveland area. Cleveland Fire Brigade has recognised that the lanterns pose a serious fire safety hazard due to their uncontrolled and unpredictable flight path.

"These products could land in trees, on rooftops or on combustible properties while still ignited and potentially cause a fire.”

Last year a Chinese lantern caused millions of pounds worth of damage when it floated into a recycling facility on an industrial estate in Smethwick, on the outskirts of Birmingham. The resulting fire was one of the largest ever seen in the West Midlands.

Phil Lancaster, director of community protection for Cleveland Fire Brigade, supported the council’s motion calling for a ban.

He said: “We do not recommend the use of sky lanterns at all. People who set them off need to be aware they could be creating significant misery and distress to others.

“The huge fire at Smethwick in the West Midlands is a reminder to us all of the devastation that can be caused by a sky lantern.

“I appeal to the people of Cleveland to think about the potential consequences of igniting a sky lantern.

“The fire and rescue service will continue to lobby the Government to introduce legislation to ban sky lanterns. Once they are lit and travel into the sky, no-one has any control over where and when they will land.

“They pose a serious risk to property, wildlife, the environment and people’s lives and the sooner they are banned, the better.”

Farming, agricultural and maritime groups have already been calling for measures to curb the use of lanterns.

Farmers with livestock complain that spent lanterns often land in fields where their wires can injure animals.

Coastguards have reported incidents when they have been needlessly called out to false alarms when the lanterns have been mistaken for ship distress flares.

A spokesman for the Wilton International Site, a major process industries site near Redcar, said: “We would welcome any move that would improve the level of safety for the site.”