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Have a happy and safe Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year 2023 falls on Sunday 22 January 2023, and welcomes in the year of the Rabbit, specifically, Water Rabbit.

Red background with gold image of rabbit and cherry blossoms, and 2023 embossed in centre.

The Lunar New Year is observed by billions of people across the world. It originates from East and Southeast Asia, and the term is referred to differently in different countries, including Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Chunjie, and Yuan Tan.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service would like to wish those celebrating within our community a safe, happy and successful time throughout this period.

Lunar New Year is celebrated in diverse ways across the globe, depending on the different countries and cultures that observe it. However, the Lunar New Year is typically a time for family reunions, plenty of food, and lively celebrations.

Firecrackers, drums, and fireworks are also common during some Lunar New Year celebrations.

The celebration period can vary in length, but many of these celebrations involve certain traditions, rituals, and superstition.

The Lunar New Year also marks the point at which the Chinese zodiac – a repeating 12-year cycle of animal signs – transitions from one animal to the next, and this year we move from tiger to rabbit.

In Chinese culture the rabbit symbolises longevity, peace, hope and prosperity.

This year’s celebrations will culminate with the Lantern Festival on Sunday 5 February 2023.

While wishing our community a happy, healthy, and prosperous time, we would also like to take this opportunity to re-share some important fire safety advice, and to remind everyone of the risks posed by fireworks and sky lanterns.

Firework Safety:

Fireworks should always be stored in a cool and dry environment, and the manufacturer’s instructions and firework law should be followed.

Business premises that are permitted to sell fireworks are reminded that signage stating the following should be on display to members of the public:

It is illegal to sell category F2 fireworks or category F3 fireworks to anyone under the age of 18. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess category F2 fireworks or Category F3 fireworks in a public place.”

Storage of fireworks within the premises should be kept clear of escape routes and restricted to authorised personnel, only accessible by lock and key.

Group Commander Steve Hawkins, Head of Protection for Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, said:

“Fortunately fire and rescue services are not often called to attend incidents that involve fireworks on a large scale. This is due to the good practices generally adopted throughout Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. If we were to attend a firework incident, this presents a risk and could affect the dynamics and decisions made at the time.

“For this reason, it is very important that business premises that are permitted to store and sell fireworks work closely with their local authority and Trading Standards so that we are aware fireworks are onsite.”

Use of sky lanterns

The use of lanterns is a tradition going back thousands of years in Chinese history, and is thought to bring about good luck and prosperity to those using them. However, there are safety concerns to consider:

  • While these lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, the potential damage they can cause is significant.
  • These floating lanterns not only constitute a fire hazard, but also pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, camping activities, thatched properties and hazardous material sites.
  • Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service does not support the use of these devices and asks members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them.
  • Lanterns should be used by responsible adults only.
  • Adults should not be under the influence of alcohol or any substance that could affect their level of responsibility when using sky lanterns.
  • Water should be on hand in case the lanterns catch fire.
  • The launch area should be kept clear of combustible materials.
  • Damaged lanterns should not be used.
  • Ensure sufficient clearance to avoid obstacles such as trees, power lines or buildings.
  • Avoid launching near roads, especially major roads or motorways.
  • Avoid standing crops.
  • Do not launch within five miles of an airport.
  • Do not launch in wind speeds in excess of five mph – be sure to check the wind direction before launch – The Met Office can be a useful source of information.

Cooking safety:

More than half of all the fires we attend start in the kitchen, so if you are planning a meal with family and friends follow these tips:

  • Never fill a pan more than one third full of fat or oil.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Never put food in a pan if the oil begins to smoke. Turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool, otherwise it could catch fire.
  • Never wear loose clothing near to cooking materials, as it could catch fire causing severe burns, or it could get caught on something and pull it over.
  • Keep tea towels well away from cooking appliances, as they could catch fire.
  • Clean hobs regularly to prevent a build-up of fat which can catch fire.

Candle safety:

If you plan to light candles as part of your celebrations, make sure you follow our tips to prevent the risk of fire:

  • Tealights and nightlights should be placed in a suitable holder as they can melt through plastic materials.
  • Never leave a candle burning unattended.
  • Keep candles away from furnishings and clothing.
  • Keep candles and matches or lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Always put votive and scented candles in a glass or metal holder as they liquefy to release their fragrance.

What NOT to do

  • Throw or set off fireworks in a public place.
  • Set off fireworks after 1am during the permitted dates.
  • Use a naked flame or cigarettes close to fireworks.
  • Return to a firework once it has been lit.
  • Handle fireworks once they are ready to be used.
  • Use any lighting aids such as petrol or paraffin on fireworks, as these will take the firework out of its usual working limits.
  • Handle fireworks if you have consumed alcohol or drugs.

What TO do

  • Read the guidance for intended use of fireworks and ensure that this is adopted.
  • Buy fireworks that are CE marked, and from premises that are licensed to the sell them.
  • When setting off fireworks, direct them away from buildings and spectators.
  • Use fireworks only during the permitted timeframes (Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, three days before Diwali and three days before Chinese New Year).

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