Monday 5 December 2016

'Dangerous' Chinese lantern blamed for causing devastating house blaze

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 06/05/2015 | 02:30

Lily McKenna and Tiger are homeless after house caught fire
Lily McKenna and Tiger are homeless after house caught fire
The fire damaged rear of Lily McKenna's Ballyfermot home yesterday

A Chinese lantern has been blamed for starting a blaze that caused this damage at a Dublin home.

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The homeowner Lily McKenna (64) said a neighbour claimed he saw a Chinese lantern floating down from the sky and landing on her house shortly before the fire began.

"People need to be warned that these things can cause fires," Lily said.

Lily, her son Martin (44) and the family's 20-year-old cat Tiger escaped from the burning house.

"We could be out of our home for two to six months because of the fire. Look how dangerous those Chinese lanterns are.

"One of them took our home away from us. But it could have taken our lives," she said.

She said she was in bed at home on Carna Road, Ballyfermot, last Friday night when she noticed "a brightness" outside a back window.

"It's lucky I woke up. I noticed a fire on the roof of our kitchen awning at the back of the house. I first got a glass of water in the bathroom to throw on it but, of course, that was useless.

"I went and woke up my son Martin. The fire spread quickly and the whole roof of the awning was blazing. We ran out the front of the house," she said.

Several neighbours emerged from their homes and Dublin Fire Brigade crews arrived within 10 minutes.

"One of the neighbours, I can't remember who, told me he saw one of those Chinese lanterns landing on the roof," she said.

Extensive damage was caused to the rear of the house and everything was smoke damaged, she said.

Chinese lanterns are made of paper and supported by a light metal or bamboo frame. When a small candle is lit inside, the hot air causes the lantern to expand like a balloon and float into the sky.

The fire began around 10.30pm. She said she had seen a lantern that landed in a local park and was surprised as it was bigger than she expected.

"This is a warning to everybody that might save lives," she said.

She was relieved that she and her son Martin, a driver for Dublin Bus, escaped unhurt.

"I'm walking around in borrowed clothes as everything is damaged. I only go to the house to feed the cat. A box he slept in was burned. He's 20 years old. He's in bits after it," she said.

Lily is anxious to return to live in the family house which has been her home for 44 years.

A spokeswoman for Dublin Fire Brigade said that, until now, they had not heard of any fires being caused by a Chinese lantern in Dublin.

Distress

A source in the Irish Coastguard Service said people planning to release Chinese lanterns into the sky are legally obliged to inform air traffic control authorities and the Coastguard service in case they are mistaken for distress flares.

Some 100,000 tonnes of material at a recycling plant near Birmingham in England went on fire after a lantern landed on the premises in 2013.

Chinese lanterns are banned in Austria, Australia and most of Germany for fire safety reasons.

The Herald

Irish Independent

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