Bonfire and Fireworks Safety


Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Lee Asprey and I'm the fire investigation and arson reduction manager for Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service. So, here we are in 2020, it's late October and we're heading towards bonfire night and covid-19 has just changed everything really. So there are very few organised displays going on if it all and I would normally be advocating that you do that you go to organise display to see some fantastic professional fireworks with your friends and your family and enjoy a hotdog or whatever. 

That's not going to happen this year, so you may be thinking well, we will have our own home firework display in the garden and that's completely up to you however before you go by any fireworks. Let's have a think about some the safety issues and what you can do to make sure that the firework display in your garden goes ahead really really safely and well. Firstly, let's have a look at the garden itself now fireworks within the UK come with a minimum safety distance of 8 meters, so from the back of your house and probably where you're going to put your family so they can watch the display you need 8 meters safety zone to the fireworks. Ok, so ensure you've got that first and then have a think about where the fireworks are going to be is there a safety zone around those so the fireworks are going to be close to say a shed or a garage or a hedge, wooden fences near a conservatory. Anything like that. Then think about if you're looking at buying rockets. Can you safely launch the rockets from your garden. 

So again looking above have you any trees and overhanging structures anything like that in the way, you want the rocket to climb straight up into the sky and not strike anything on the way because we just no idea where the rocket will go up once it does that. Ok, so Your garden is safe. 

We're not going to have a bonfire, environmentally they are dirty, dangerous burning embers float away from them and can start fires all over they're just not a good thing to do. 

Stick with the fireworks if you're going to have a firework display in your garden nice and safe and straight forward. So, where do we buy our fireworks from? Well ordinarily I say things like a reputable outlet and I was asked recently what does that mean? Well, I would say that anywhere where you buy your weekly shop, your monthly shop, where you get your deliveries from. That's the sort of place that you need to be buying your fireworks from. What you want are fireworks that come up to the British standard and you can have a look at the range of fireworks there and then assess them against your assessment of your garden safety zone, and making sure you're buying the right things for you to use. So, let's look at the Firework code. You can download this off the internet, but we'll just go through it anyway, so firstly only an adult can purchase fireworks and only adults can situate them in the garden and set them off that sort of thing. Alcohol, alcohol and fireworks do not mix, so save the celebratory drink of a really really good family firework display until after the fireworks have finished. Make sure that when you are using the fireworks you take each one out one at a time never put fireworks in your pockets and clearly never throw a firework. But take a firework out one at a time put the lid back on position it as per the instructions on the firework and light it with the taper. Now the taper will come in the box with the fireworks, never light a firework with a lighter.

At this point, lets talk about sparklers. Sparklers really should be used either at beginning before you start lighting the fireworks, or at the end after the fireworks have finished never during. What you don't want to do is open the lid of a box and somehow a spark from the sparklers ends up in that box. We don't need that. Ok, so sparklers first or sparklers last. And whenever you use sparklers, supervise the children. Make sure they've got gloves on and there is a bucket of water there so that as soon as that sparkler goes out, the wire would be really hot drop that into the bucket and that's it extinguished. Any fireworks that fail to light leave them in situ do not return to them. Don't try and re-lighting them or anything like that and leave them alone to be honest overnight. Just leave them. The next day put them into a bucket of water and weight them down with a brick or something heavy and leave them there for five days. After five days pop the fireworks, wet into a plastic bag knot the plastic bag and put that in your normal waste. Not the recycling. Once they're wet, they're fine. 

They're perfectly safe and inert and the plastic bag will keep them wet, so that's them dealt with so let's just recap. Buy fireworks from a reputable store, only adults can purchase fireworks, only the adults can operate the fireworks. 

Keep them in the box with the lid down at all times. Only light firework with the taper never a lighter, if it fails to activate do not return to it. Supervisor children at all times with sparklers, wearing gloves and make sure that you have a bucket clod water there to drop the hot wires into as soon as you've finished. Lastly alcohol and fireworks do not mix. 

Save the celebratory drink till after the fireworks have finished, so if you do have a firework display in your garden. Hopefully, it'll go ahead really really safely and well and the weather will be with you. Next year, I'm hoping for a totally different bonfire night.

Nice and safe without back to our large professional displays where we can all socialise with our friends and family and enjoy the spectacle.

So stay well stay, stay safe and have a good bonfire night. Goodbye.

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If you do decide to use fireworks at home then please follow the advice below.   

12 Steps to Staying Safe – The Firework Code

  1. Only buy fireworks over the counter from reputable retailers
  2. Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks.
  3. Keep fireworks in a closed box.
  4. Follow the instructions on each firework carefully.
  5. Light them at arm’s length using a suitable taper.
  6. Make suitable supports and launchers and stand well back.
  7. Never go back to a lit firework.
  8. Never put fireworks in your pocket.
  9. Never throw fireworks.
  10. Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
  11. Never give sparklers to children under five.
  12. Keep pets indoors


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



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:

  • never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
  • never throw spent fireworks on a bonfire
  • take care around bonfires – all clothes, even those labelled ‘low flammability’ - can catch fire



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.   


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.   


If you are under 18 years of age you can't buy the types of fireworks which can be sold only to adults and possess fireworks in public places. You may be liable for an £80 on-the-spot fine.


When you can use fireworks during celebrations? 

You can let off fireworks until midnight on Bonfire Night and until 1.00 am on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year


When you can buy Fireworks?  

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.   There is a Trading Standards ‘Firework Hotline’ 03000 260913   



We advise you not to have a bonfire as Fire can spread easily and can cause injuries.  Calls to the Fire and Rescue Service and the Police from annoyed neighbours or concerned passers-by are a drain on resources and may delay attendance at ‘real emergencies’.   If you do decide to have a bonfire, where and how you build your bonfire is important as fire can spread rapidly.  If you have a bonfire, follow these simple guidelines:

  • warn your neighbours beforehand - they are much less likely to complain
  • light the bonfire at a time least likely to affect your neighbours - eg not on a warm day when people will be in their garden
  • only burn dry material not damp, which causes more smoke
  • build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees
  • check there are no cables - like telephone wires - above the bonfire
  • 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 emergencies
  • don’t leave the bonfire unattended
  • keep children and pets away from the bonfire
  • don’t throw any fireworks into the fire
  • don't burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint - many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode, causing injury


Once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water and make sure it is completely extinguished before leaving it.