FIREFIGHTERS have urged residents to avoid releasing Chinese lanterns as part of the weekly clap for carers event.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) is asking people to find safer alternatives to show their support for the NHS, after a number of posts circulated on social media encouraging the release of lanterns.

DWFRS area manager Craig Baker said: "With Chinese lanterns, you're basically throwing a naked flame into the sky with no control over the direction it will take or where it will land. In addition, there is no guarantee that the fuel source will be fully extinguished and cooled when the lantern eventually descends, and that presents a real fire hazard.

"At a time when we are trying to keep our turn-outs to a minimum, to protect our crews from potential exposure to coronavirus, the last thing we need is lots of people launching these lanterns.

"We would urge everyone to find safer ways of supporting our key workers."

Chinese lanterns, also known as wish or sky lanterns, are generally made from paper, supported by a wire frame that incorporates a holder at the base for a solid fuel heat source.

The fire service says they are both a fire hazard and a danger to wildlife, pets and people.

Last week, the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) issued a fresh plea for the public to avoid lighting sky lanterns, describing the recent attempt by companies to market them as a means of showing support for NHS workers as “misguided”.