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Bonfire, firework and Halloween safety advice

Advice and guidance for enjoying and staying safe throughout Bonfire night and Halloween.

What is a bonfire? 

A bonfire is a large, but controlled, outdoor fire, used either for informal disposal of burnable waste material, or as part of a celebration.

The name "bonfire" is derived from the fact that bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned. 

Is there any bonfire safety advice available?

The advice on this page will help your bonfire event or firework display go safely. Please read it carefully. 

However, the council would like to encourage residents to attend an organised bonfire if possible. 

Further information

For information on the correct use of a bonfire for recreational use, to burn waste, visit the Burning waste (bonfires) page. 

You can also read about the effects of burning on air quality, and how to report air pollution.

What is the Firework Code?

If you are thinking of using fireworks as part of your celebrations, please follow the safety advice below.

Having fireworks at home can be great fun as long as they are used safely. Figures have shown that more children than adults get hurt by fireworks. 

Fireworks are safe if you use them properly. If you are putting on a home display you should follow some simple steps to make sure that everyone has a good time without getting hurt.

Always follow the Firework code:

  • Stand well back
  • Keep pets indoors
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box
  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114
  • Light at arm's length, using a taper
  • Follow the instructions on each firework
  • Never give sparklers to a child under five
  • Don't drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Always supervise children around fireworks
  • Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
  • Never go near a firework that has been lit - even if it hasn't gone off it could still explode.

How do I keep my children safe whilst enjoying fireworks?

We want children to enjoy fireworks but they need to know that they can be dangerous if they are not used properly. Each year over half of all firework injuries are suffered by children. The following website and PDF has more guidance on keeping children safe:

Firework Safety Advice - Child Accident Prevention Trust (external website) 

Firework safety for children - Follow Ben for a safe fireworks night (pdf 944kb opens in a new window) 

Do you have advice for using sparklers safely?

Did you know that sparklers get five times hotter than boiling cooking oil?  

Read our safety advice below:

General sparkler advice

  • Store sparklers and other fireworks in a closed box in a cool, dry place.
  • Always light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
  • Never hold a baby or child if you have a sparkler in your hand.
  • Plunge finished sparklers hot end down into a bucket of water as soon as they have burnt out. They can stay hot for a long time.
  • Don't take sparklers to public displays. It will be too crowded to use them safely.

Sparkler advice for children

  • Never give sparklers to children under 5 as they won't understand how to use them safely.
  • Show children how to hold sparklers safely - away from their body and at arm's length.
  • Teach children not to wave sparklers near anyone else
  • Children should stand still and not run with a sparkler.
  • Always supervise older children using sparklers.
  • Children should always wear gloves when holding sparklers.
  • Avoid dressing children in loose or flowing clothes which may catch light.

Sparkler advice in emergencies

  • Cool the burn or scald with cold water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Cut around material sticking to the skin - don't pull it off. The hospital will do this.
  • Don't touch the burn or burst any blisters.
  • Cover the burn with clean, non-fluffy material. Cling film is ideal as it prevents infection.
  • If clothing catches fire, get the person to drop to the floor and roll them in heavy material like a curtain.
  • Get immediate advice from your doctor or accident and emergency department at your local hospital.

Where do I buy fireworks from?

Don't cut corners just to save a few pounds. Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to British Standards. This means that they should have BS 7114 written on the box.

Sometimes shops open up for a short time before Bonfire Night but these may not be the best places to buy fireworks from. Staff in these shops might not be very knowledgeable about using fireworks safely and their fireworks might not meet British Standards.

Don't buy fireworks from anywhere you're not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall. 

How do I set fireworks off?

Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. If that's you, then make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Read the instructions in daylight and don't drink any alcohol until they've all been discharged.  Make your preparations in advance and in daylight or with a torch (never a naked flame). 

On the night you will need:

  • a torch
  • a bucket or two of water
  • eye protection and gloves
  • a bucket of soft earth or sand to put fireworks in 
  • suitable supports and launchers if you are setting off Catherine wheels or rockets.

How do I protect pets on Bonfire Night?

You should take precautions to protect your pets during the times of the year when fireworks are likely to be set off.  Keep them indoors if possible.

How do I protect wildlife on Bonfire Night?

There are ways that you can protect wildlife in your garden or local area on Bonfire Night, or evenings around 5 November.

  • Look out for hedgehogs, toads, frogs and newts who will require redirection if you spot them near a fire site. The Wildlife Trust encourages us to remember amphibians as they are valued predators in the garden world.
  • Divert toads, frogs and newts away from the bonfire by building small piles of leaves and logs as alternative shelter, and if you can, place them there instead.
  • Try to build the bonfire stack on the actual day you will be lighting it.  If you've already built one, move it on the night to a debris-free area to allow wildlife that has already moved in the chance to get out while they can.
  • Check the fire stack using a torch to ensure no hedgehogs, toads, frogs and newts have sneaked in just before you light the bonfire.
  • Leave some dead wood and old leaves behind, unburnt, as habitat piles for wildlife.
  • Make sure the bonfire is out, or safe, before leaving it alone – a large bonfire will produce a pile of ash that may well be hot for days, with the potential to harm wildlife.
  • Please clear up once the display has finished. Do not leave dead fireworks or litter as cans and bottles and other debris can trap small mammals or get stuck on their noses.
  • If you find any hibernating hedgehogs in the middle of your prepared bonfire, gently pick them up (using gloves to protect you from the spines) and move them under a tree or shrub - somewhere sheltered - and not exposed to wind, rain and frost, if at all possible.
  • Keep fireworks away from trees and hedgerows to minimise the disturbance of birds in nest boxes and other animals.
  • Do not pin Catherine Wheels to trees. Try to set them off in an open area, attached  to fence posts or stakes in the ground instead.

Is there any advice available about 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. 

Gov UK - Fireworks - the law (external website) 

How do I use fireworks legally?

It is against the law to:

  • set off or throw fireworks in the street or other public place
  • set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am - except during certain celebrations (see answer to 'When you can use fireworks during celebrations?' below).

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 (5 November)
  • until 1.00 am on New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year
  • before 11pm at any other time of the year.

Is there any advice about air and noise pollution available?

Information, advice and guidance about pollution from bonfire and firework events, such as smoke and noise, is available on our pollution pages.