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Organising bonfires and fireworks

Organising bonfires and fireworks

Firework displays should be enjoyable occasions, but they need responsible planning.

If you organise a bonfire to accompany a fireworks display on 5 November, you must adhere to the following.

Before the bonfire

You need to tell the following people about your event in advance:

  • fire service
  • police
  • ambulance service
  • local hospitals and care homes that may be affected by noise or smoke
  • neighbours: the elderly, children and pets may be affected

Bonfires should be:

  • on a site with good access for emergency service vehicles
  • a safe distance away from buildings and trees
  • clear of overhead obstructions, such as power cables
  • well constructed – especially if on sloping ground
  • free of foam furniture, rubber aerosols, gas cylinders, bottles
  • free from accelerants such as petrol or paraffin and none should be onsite
  • free of light ash-producing materials that could blow about, for example, corrugated cardboard
  • sited with consideration of prevailing winds

The following equipment should be available and checked:

  • hose pipe of suitable length and/or water buckets or water extinguishers
  • metal buckets with sand for spent sparklers
  • fire blankets in bonfire display areas
  • first aid kits

Controls during the bonfire

You should:

  • check the bonfire for hidden children and animals before you light it
  • check no accelerants are onsite
  • nominate one person who is responsible for lighting the bonfire
  • designate safety officers to be in charge during the bonfire and fireworks
  • have a named chief marshall available at the event in case of a site visit

Safety officers should be:

  • familiar with display fireworks and lighting requirements
  • easily identifiable and suitably clothed (outer garments and boots)
  • trained and familiar with the safety guidance
  • able to treat a burn injury correctly
  • familiar with how to contact the emergency services

Displays should have:

  • adequate viewing, display and fall-out areas relative to the size of the display
  • an area for safe storage of fireworks
  • fenced, taped or roped safety area relative to the size of the display and type

After the bonfire

After the bonfire, you should:

  • ensure bonfire is safe and damp it down if necessary
  • collect spent fireworks and sparklers and dispose of them safely
  • collect and remove any litter and rubbish

Other considerations

You should double check that:

  • enough safety officers have been identified in case some are absent on the night
  • the site access for emergency service vehicles is not blocked
  • your public liability insurance is up to date and available
  • your insurance policy covers this type of event (both fireworks and bonfires)
  • your insurance policy requires you to notify the fire service

What the law says

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 prescribes that smoke from bonfires can constitute a statutory nuisance if it disturbs local residents and prevents people from enjoying their homes.

Where a local authority is satisfied that smoke from a bonfire gives rise to a statutory nuisance, then it must serve an abatement notice on the person(s) responsible for the nuisance to effectively prohibit a recurrence. You also have a duty of care to dispose of your waste correctly. If you are found to be burning commercial waste, legal action could be taken against you.

Find out more

The Health and Safety Executive has the following advice:

Temporary event notice

If you want to hold an event, you may need to apply for a Temporary Event Notice from our licensing team and police licensing department at least ten working days in advance of a planned event.


Last updated on 13 January 2016