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Fire Safety Outdoors

BONFIRE SAFETY

If you are having a bonfire, whether it’s to get rid of garden waste or part of a celebration like Guy Fawkes night, take care. Follow the simple tips below to make sure you, and others, are safe.

Building a bonfire

Fire can spread easily, so where and how you build your bonfire is important:

  • build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees
  • check there are no cables, like telephone wires, above the bonfire
  • don’t build the bonfire too big and make sure the stack is stable and won’t collapse outwards or to one side
  • use only dry material – damp material will cause more smoke, which could annoy your neighbours or be harmful to people with breathing difficulties
  • don’t burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint – many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode causing injury
  • remove any rubbish from the area around the bonfire so no one is tempted to throw something on to the fire
  • check the bonfire before lighting it – piles of garden waste are sometimes used as a refuge by hibernating wildlife
  • don’t use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going – it may get out of control quickly

Bonfire safety tips

Once the bonfire is lit, make sure you:

  • keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby, in case of emergenciese
  • don’t leave the bonfire unattended
  • keep children and pets away from the bonfire
  • don’t throw any fireworks into the fire

Once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water to stop it reigniting.

Bonfires and the law

There aren’t any specific laws against having a bonfire, but there are several laws that deal with the nuisance bonfires can cause. See ‘Bonfires and the law’ for more information.

Bonfires and the law

Other ways to dispose of garden waste

There are ways to get rid of your garden waste without making a bonfire. Most garden waste, like grass cuttings and leaves, can be recycled by composting.  

Composting (environment and greener living section)

Reducing waste and recycling (environment and greener living section)

FIREWORK SAFETY AND THE LAW

Fireworks often play a big part in celebrations – like Bonfire Night, Diwali and Chinese New Year. However, fireworks are explosives and burn at high temperatures, so they need careful handling and storage. Find out about firework safety and the law about their use.

Firework safety checklist

Figures have shown that more children than adults get hurt by fireworks. If you are thinking of using fireworks as part of your celebrations, you should follow the steps listed below.

Before your firework display

Preparation is key to enjoying fireworks safely, so:

  • don’t buy fireworks from anywhere you’re not sure about, like a van or a temporary, unlicensed market stall
  • only buy fireworks marked BS 7114 – this is the British Standard that all fireworks should meet (a reputable shop will know this)
  • follow the instructions on each firework – read them in daylight or by torchlight, never by a naked flame
  • make suitable supports and launchers if you’re setting off Catherine wheels or rockets

Things you will need on the night

It’s easy to get a few household things together, these are:

  • a closed metal box to store the fireworks – take them out one at a time
  • a bucket of water – to cool sparklers and put out any small fires
  • eye protection and gloves
  • a bucket of earth to stick fireworks in

Lighting fireworks

Follow these simple guidelines to stay safe:

  • only one person should be responsible for letting off fireworks
  • don’t drink alcohol if you are setting off fireworks
  • light fireworks at arm’s length, using a taper
  • make sure everyone stands well back
  • never go back to a firework that has been lit – even if it hasn’t gone off it could still explode

Sparklers

Sparklers are fun, but always:

  • supervise children with sparklers and never give them to a child under five
  • light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
  • put used sparklers hot end down into a bucket of sand or water

Other tips on the night

Finally, follow these other rules for a safe night:

Bonfire safety

Fire safety advice for parents and child carers (parents section)

Fireworks and the law

There are laws about when fireworks can be sold, and to who – as well as the times fireworks can be set off.

If you are under 18 years of age

If you are under 18, you can’t:

  • buy the types of fireworks which can be sold only to adults
  • have fireworks in public places

If you do, the police can give you an on-the-spot fine of £80.

Using fireworks legally

It is against the law to:

  • set off or throw fireworks in the street or other public place
  • set off fireworks between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am – except during certain celebrations

If found guilty by the courts, you could be fined up to £5,000 and can be imprisoned for up to three months. You may be liable for an on-the-spot fine of £80.

When you can use fireworks during celebrations

You can let off fireworks :

  • until midnight on Bonfire Night
  • until 1.00 am on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year

Dealing with a noise nuisance

Firework legislation Opens new window

When fireworks are available to buy

Fireworks for private use, and from a registered seller, can only be sold:

  • between 15 October and 10 November – around Bonfire Night
  • between 26 December and 31 December – for New Year’s Eve
  • three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year

For the rest of the year, you will only be able to buy fireworks from shops that are licensed to supply them.

If you think a shop is unregistered, or selling fireworks when they shouldn’t, contact your council’s Trading Standards Officer. Your council will also have a list of registered sellers.

Animals and pets

It is against the law to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal. The penalty if found guilty is either imprisonment up to 51 weeks, or a fine of up to £20,000, or both.

Animal firework safety information from the RSPCA Opens new window

Animal welfare and advice – including how to report animal cruelty

Firework displays for the general public

If you are organising a firework display for the general public, see ‘Organising a firework display’ for advice on how to run it safely and successfully.

Organising a firework display

HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF WILDFIRES

Dry ground in the summer means there’s an added risk of a fire starting, but you should take care at all times of the year. Follow these tips to reduce the chance of a wildfire in the countryside:

  • extinguish cigarettes properly and don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground – take your litter home
  • never throw cigarette ends out of car windows
  • avoid using open fires in the countryside
  • don’t leave bottles or glass in woodland – sunlight shining through glass can start fires (take them home and recycle them)
  • only use barbecues in a suitable and safe area and never leave them unattended
  • if you see a fire in the countryside, report it to the fire and rescue service immediately
  • don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible

BARBECUE SAFETY

Whether you are in the garden or out camping, follow these simple tips to barbecue safely and avoid injuries or damage to property from fire:

  • make sure your barbecue site is flat and away from fences, trees and sheds
  • keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby, in case of emergencies
  • use only enough charcoal to cover the base of the barbecue to a depth of about 5 centimetres (2 inches)
  • never use petrol or paraffin to start, or revive, your barbecue – use only barbecue fire lighters or starter fuel on cold coals
  • keep children and pets away from the cooking area
  • don’t leave the barbecue unattended
  • enjoy yourself – but don’t drink too much if you are in charge of a barbecue
  • after cooking, make sure the barbecue is cool before trying to move it
  • empty ashes on to bare soil, not into a bin

Gas barbecues – additional tips

Follow these extra tips if you are using a gas barbecue:

  • make sure your barbecue is in good working order
  • make sure the tap is off before changing the gas cylinder and do it in the open air
  • don’t over-tighten joints
  • when you have finished cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before you turn off the barbecue controls – this means any gas in the pipeline will be used up
  • read the manufacturer’s instructions about how to check for leaks in the cylinder or pipework, eg brushing soapy water around all joints and looking for bubbles

Storing gas cylinders

Don’t keep more cylinders than you need. Gas cylinders should be kept outside, away from direct sunlight and frost. If you have to keep them inside your house, make sure you don’t store them under the stairs. If there is a fire, they could explode and the stairs are likely to be your escape route.

CAMPING SAFETY

When you are going camping, follow these basic precautions to reduce the risk of fire starting and spreading:

  • before you set off, get the contact details of the local fire and rescue service
  • set up tents at least six metres apart and away from parked cars
  • make sure you know what the fire safety arrangements are on the camp site and where the nearest telephone is
  • don’t use oil-burning appliances, like lanterns, or candles in or near a tent – torches are safer
  • don’t smoke inside a tent
  • place your cooking area well away from the tent
  • keep your cooking area clear of items that catch fire easily (‘flammable’ items), including long, dry grass
  • put cooking appliances in a place where they can’t easily be knocked over
  • keep matches, lighters, flammable liquids and gas cylinders out of the reach of children
  • have an escape plan and be prepared to cut your way out of your tent if there is a fire

How to deal with a fire when camping

Remember these two simple tips:

  • get everyone out straight away – fires in tents spread very quickly
  • call the fire and rescue service and give a map reference if possible – provide a landmark, like a farm or pub, to help them find you