A MAN has described the moment he saw a Chinese lantern land on his shed roof before it went up in flames, causing £4,000 worth of damage.
Graham Pengelley, 48, was at home in Highlands Road, Fareham, with his wife Anita, and spotted the lantern landing on the shed when he was closing the curtains at 11.45pm just before he went to bed.
Graham said: ‘I looked out of the window and thought “that’s a Chinese lantern” and saw it going on the shed roof, when I looked up again it was in flames.
‘Luckily for me, my quick-thinking neighbours came out with their hose. I called the fire brigade and they were there within a few minutes.
‘It is a big shed, so there was a lot of stuff in there – things that we don’t use any more in the house, clothes and furniture, and power tools, which are all water and smoke-damaged now.
‘It’s certainly something you don’t expect.’
Graham, a landscape gardener, wants people to think twice before setting them off in residential areas.
He said: ‘They look nice and if you are by the sea then there’s no problem, but setting off Chinese lanterns in a middle of a town, especially during this dry weather, is irresponsible.
‘They are cheap and they look nice but they can cause so much damage.’
Graham’s home insurance company is coming to look at the shed to assess the damage and he is hoping that they may be able to do something, although he is not sure if they will pay out.
Graham said: ‘There’s half a shed left.
‘The front is still there but there’s a huge part of the roof missing and everything is dirty and wet.’
Firefighters recently called for Chinese lanterns to be banned after one caused a fire at a plastics recycling plant in Smethwick, West Midlands.
More than 200 fire crew members attended the fire, three of whom were taken to hospital.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s head of community safety, Steve Foye, said: ‘We are experiencing some fantastic summer weather and it’s only natural to want to go outdoors and enjoy.
‘We are asking the public to be extra vigilant and follow a few simple steps, such as putting out cigarettes properly and not throwing them on the ground.
‘Avoid open fires in the countryside, unless you’re in a designated area.
‘We do not support the use of Chinese lanterns and ask members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them.
‘If you do see a fire, don’t attempt to tackle it yourself. Call 999 and leave the area as quickly as possible.’