A LEADING fire officer has told an inquiry examining the most effective ways of clamping down on the use of sky lanterns that the small paper hot air balloons could seriously damage efforts to tackle climate change in Craven and the whole of North Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Andrew Brodie said while the National Fire Chiefs Council was opposed to the use of sky lanterns due to evidence of them causing significant fires and damaging wildlife, in North Yorkshire they could also devastate ecosystems that lock up massive amounts of carbon.

Mr Brodie was giving evidence at the start of a North Yorkshire County Council inquiry into banning the launching of the lanterns from any of the hundreds of properties or land the county council owns or has any interest in.

He told the inquiry the proposed ban and move to call all the parish and district councils in the county to pass similar action was “a step in the right direction”.

Mr Brodie said: “In March, April, May, June and July this year the landscape in North Yorkshire was tinder dry. We were very fortunate not to suffer a significant fire. The likelihood of that happening had lanterns been used would have been far higher.

“You only have to look across into West Yorkshire and Lancashire to see the impact of that type of incident and the drain it presents to fire and rescue services in terms of the quantity of resources needed to deal with an incident like that which can burn for days or even weeks.”

He then emphasised the potential impact on the county’s vast moorland landscapes of a significant fire.

The Moorland Association states there is more carbon locked up in UK peat soils, which the heather moors protect, than in all the trees of Britain and France.

Mr Brodie said if North Yorkshire’s heather moors burn “not only is it about the smoke and the heat being emitted from that causing damage to the environment, but it’s not able to perform its normal natural role of capturing carbon and keeping the environment in some form of balance”.

The inquiry heard how animals had died after being hit by falling debris or ingesting lantern parts and calls for the council to press the Local Government Association to lobby the Government for an outright ban.

Laurie Norris, of the National Farmers Union, said Yorkshire and the North-East was lagging behind councils in other areas in taking action over the sky lanterns.