20 NOVEMBER 2011. CHINESE LANTERNS MISTAKEN FOR RED DISTRESS FLARES – APPEAL BY NSRI FOR THE PUBLIC NOT TO SET OFF CHINESE LANTERNS:
NSRI are appealing to the public not to set off Chinese Lanterns.
Chinese Lanterns are made out of a balsa wood or thin wire frame, a paper shell and a candle in the centre. The candle is lit allowing the generation of heat to send the lantern skyward where it floats through the sky (similar to a hot air ballon) until the candle burns out and then the baloon falls to the ground.
Chinese Lanterns were made famous by the film Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio and have also been depicted in the animated film Tangled.
Chinese Lanterns appear to be set off to mark occasions such as weddings, birthdays or special moments. Once Chinese Lanterns are set off they are usually abandoned by the people setting them off and are seldom, if ever, followed by their owners to be properly disposed of wherever they land.
It is widely believed to be near impossible to predict what they will do or where they will go once set off as they are at the mercy of the elements of the weather and wind conditions.
Chinese Lanterns are often mistaken by eye-witnesses as red distress flares. They are also feared to be a fire hazard – if they are caught in the wind and land in trees or dry grass fields or on buildings while the candle is still burning.
Last week, on the Vaal Dam, a party group intended to set off 100 Chinese Lanterns into the air but agreed to stop following an appeal by the local NSRI. Later that night calls were received by eye-witnesses reporting red distress flares in the Deneysville area which were later, following an investigation, found to have been Chinese Lanterns but no one in the vicinity admitted to setting them off.
Yesterday, 19th November, at 20h36, NSRI Knysna were called out following reports of red distress flares sighted. During a search operation it was discovered that the sightings were in fact Chinese Lanterns floating airborne over in the vicinity of the Knysna coastline.
Then, yesterday, 19th November, at 21h37, NSRI Simonstown were called following reports from eye-witnesses of multiple red distress flares sighted in the Fish Hoek bay. Fearing a boat and persons to be in dire danger a full scale emergency response was activated and during a search operation it was discovered that the red distress flares were in fact mistaken and that the culprit was Chinese Lanterns but the source of where they came from could not be determined.
The NSRI strongly believe that, based on the potential risks that chinese lanterns may pose and based on the number of false alarms that the NSRI respond to, which turn out to be chinese lanterns mistaken to be red distress flares, that the practice of setting off chinese lanterns, into the sky, is irresponsible behavior.