Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley, has called for a ban on sky lanterns after the fires which have engulfed Winter Hill. The hill borders the boroughs of Chorley, Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton, close to the Ribble Valley constituency.
Around 100 firefighters from across the country have joined the effort to subdue the blaze, which was a suspected act of arson for which a 22-year-old man has been arrested. The fire comes after fire crews and the Army, combat a week-long blaze at Saddleworth Moor, a mere 30 miles away.
Today the Speaker granted an urgent question regarding the ongoing fires at Saddleworth and Tameside Moor in the House of Commons, meaning a Home Office Minister must take questions from MPs at short notice.
Speaking in the chamber, Mr Evans said:
“Can I pay tribute to firefighters from Ribble Valley and Chorley, and also Darwen and Rossendale and Pendle. We pay tribute to their courage and dedication particularly in the heat that they are having to endure.”
Continuing, Mr Evans asked:
“At this time there are a lot of summer festivals on and people use these lanterns with candles that then go up. Clearly these are a fire hazard themselves and would he [Minster Nick Hurd] consider banning those activities. Secondly, will he make absolutely and explicitly clear that people flying drones over that area could well be jeopardising the operation of those fighting the fires.”
Nick Hurd, the Minister responsible for the Fire Service responded:
“I join my Honourable friend in saluting the work in firefighters from across the country who have stepped up to join in this task.
“In relation to drones, there is no clearer message than that issued by Lancashire fire service, don’t. If you’re looking to go to the fire to take photographs, don’t. Just get out of the way and let the fire service do their job.”
Mr Hurd’s response comes after Lancashire and Manchester Fire Services have been forced to issue advice to amateur drone users in the area. Helicopters are being used in the area to dump gallons of water onto the fires, there are fears that pilots could be at risk from unofficial devices coming into their air space. Further worries exist about the capacity of amateur drones interfering with the operation of official fire service drones, which have been supplementing traditional methods.
Speaking from his Westminster office, Nigel Evans said:
“It is imperative that locals around Manchester and Chorley take heed to the firefighter’s advice. They have got enough on their plate already without unnecessary disruption.
“I hope the Home Office listen to my recommendation of banning or seriously restricting the sale of fire lanterns this summer. Whilst I appreciate the symbolic nature and aesthetic beauty of lanterns, in this extreme heat they act like tinder boxes, putting livestock, firefighters and the public at risk.”