People across Herefordshire and Worcestershire are asked to make fire safety a priority with the Chinese New Year starting on Sunday.

Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) strongly advises against the use of sky lanterns. Also known as Chinese lanterns, they are a serious fire risk as people cannot know where they will land and who or what will be there. As well as the serious risk of causing a fire, there are also dangers to crops, vehicles, livestock and the environment.

Additionally, there have been numerous safety risks for aircraft with debris endangering taxiing aircraft and causing delays to take-off and landing.

Emma Roberts, HWFRS Head of Prevention, said: "Chinese New Year is a wonderful celebration, however, it is vital that people keep safety in mind at all times and be aware that sky lanterns can pose a serious danger, putting lives and property at risk."

Sky lanterns are small hot-air balloons consisting of a paper-covered wire, rope or bamboo frame and a suspended open-flame heat source. The heat source lifts the lanterns into the air where they can then float for miles from the point of release and the sender will often have no idea where they have landed or what damage they might have caused.

They are illegal in Germany but not long ago still caused a serious fire at a zoo in Krefeld where dozens of animals, including 30 primates in the monkey house, died. Anyone requiring fire safety advice can call the Prevention Team any time between 9am and 5pm on 0800 032 1155 and speak to one of the experts for help and guidance. Further safety advice is on the HWFRS website at hwfire.org.uk/safety-and-advicehttp://www.hwfire.org.uk/safety-and-advice/.