Bonfire & fireworks displays

Bonfire & fireworks displays

Stay safe when having a bonfire or when using fireworks. Read our top safety tips here.

Bonfire safety

Below, we’ve listed a few tips to keep you safe around bonfires.

What not to wear around a bonfire
  • Never wear loose clothing that can easily ignite (tracksuit/long scarf).
  • Never wear clothes labelled ‘highly flammable’ - they can ignite.
Remember, if anyone’s clothes do catch on fire – don’t run, drop to the ground and roll over to put the flame out. Stop, drop and roll!
Building and lighting your bonfire
Building a bonfire?
Follow these tips to keep everyone safe:
  • Site the bonfire at least 18 metres from buildings or trees.
  • Do not build it beside electricity or telephone lines.
  • Have enough helpers and equipment.
  • The height must be less than three metres and half the width of the base.
  • Only burn wood, paper/cardboard and foliage.
  • Build to collapse inwards as it burns (you can contact us for advice).
Please note that any bonfires built on public land, for instance a public park or sports field, without a permit will be removed.

Lighting your bonfire:
  • Before lighting it, ensure there are no children or animals within your bonfire.
  • Make sure your bonfire is away from a road, as smoke will drift and you will be fined for endangering traffic.
  • Keep spectators at a distance of at least six metres.
  • Do not burn aerosols, tyres, canisters, plastics or anything containing foam or paint – they produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode, causing injury.
  • Never leave the bonfire unattended and keep children and animals away.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a hose nearby in case of emergency.
  • Never throw fireworks into the fire.
  • Once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water to stop it reigniting. Ensure the fire is out and check again later to be safe.
Sparkler safety tips
  • Children should always be supervised when using sparklers.
  • Never give children under the age of five a sparkler.
  • Always wear gloves.
  • Never light more than one sparkler at a time.
  • Once the sparkler is finished, put its hot end down in a bucket of water or sand.
Bonfires & the law
  • Burning domestic waste is an offence, as it is likely to cause pollution or harm to human health.
  • Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials creates poisonous fumes, and can have damaging health effects for people who have asthma or heart conditions.

If you see any smoke drifting across the road, please call the police on 101. Under the Highways Act 1980, anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across the road faces a fine if it endangers traffic.

For more advice, please contact us.

Fire can spread easily, so please contact us if you are planning to have a bonfire. We can provide plenty of information and advice, such as:

  • how to conduct risk assessments for events
  • site suitability
  • bonfire construction
  • safety procedures
  • how to inform people about the event
  • who to contact
  • insurance
  • fire safety

You can contact us on 01670 621 110 for more information.

More information & advice
Fire can spread easily, so please contact us on 01670 621110 if you are planning to have a bonfire. We can provide plenty of information and advice, such as:
  • how to conduct risk assessments for events
  • site suitability
  • bonfire construction
  • safety procedures
  • how to inform people about the event
  • who to contact
  • insurance
  • fire safety

Firework safety

Figures have shown more children are injured by fireworks than adults. If you are thinking of using fireworks, you should follow the steps listed below. Whether you use them in your own back garden, or at a community display, follow our advice to stay safe.

For more detailed information, please also read:

Top safety tips for fireworks

Buying your fireworks

  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114 or with a CE mark – this shows the firework meets British or European safety standards
  • Fireworks for private use can only be sold by a registered seller (between 15 October and 10 November, between 26 December and 31 December, or three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year). For the rest of the year, you can only buy fireworks from shops licensed to supply them.
  • If you are under 18 you cannot buy adult fireworks or have them in public places. If you do, the police can give you an on-the-spot fine of £80.
  • If you think a shop is unregistered, or selling fireworks illegally, contact the trading standards team.
When using fireworks
  • Always have buckets of water prepared to put out small fires or cool sparklers.
  • Never drink alcohol. This increases risk of injury and makes adults less able to supervise children during the display. Try to limit the availability of alcohol at bonfire events. Keep guests who are drinking alcohol away from fireworks and never drink alcohol if you’re setting them off.
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’re setting off fireworks.
  • Follow the instructions on each firework by daylight or torchlight, never by a naked flame.
  • Wear eye protection and gloves.
  • Bring a closed metal box to store the fireworks. Take them out one at a time and never carry them in your pocket.
  • Light fireworks at arms’ length, using a taper.
  • Ensure everyone stands back.
  • Never go back to a firework that has been lit – even if hasn’t gone off as it could still explode.
  • Never throw spent fireworks on a bonfire.
  • Please remember, alcohol and fireworks don’t mix.

Pets and animals
Animals can get very scared from the loud bangs and flashes associated with firework displays. To ease their distress, keep them indoors and close all curtains to make things calmer.

Remember, it’s not just your own fireworks that cause them to be scared, so you may need to keep your pets indoors on several nights when other displays are taking place.

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

If you have livestock of horses, remember to check for nearby displays and ask your neighbours if they are planning on setting off any fireworks or having a bonfire.

If your animals or stabled, check thoroughly for anything that could cause potential injury such as protruding nails and string.

I
f your animals are staying in the field, check that fencing is not broken and that there are no foreign objects lying around. 

 

Fireworks & the law

It is against the law to:

  • set off or throw fireworks in the street, or any public place
  • set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, or between midnight and 7am on bonfire night, or 1am and 7am for New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year
  • buy or possess adult fireworks if you are under 18
If found guilty by the courts, you could receive an on-the-spot fine of £80 or up to £5,000 and can face charges, imprisonment for up to three months, as well as a criminal record.

Reporting arson & safety risks

Help your local community to stay safe by reporting any arson or safety threats below.

Smoke
Under the Highways Act 1980, anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across roads face a fine if it endangers traffic.
  • If you see this, please call the police on 101.
Arson risks
If you discover a potential arson risk, please let us know by reporting it in one of the following ways:

Bonfire & firework safety - contact us

For further advice on bonfire and firework safety, please contact us:

  • Phone: 01670 621110 (during office hours) and 01670 627599 (outside of office hours)
  • Email: firesafety1@northumberland.gov.uk (only monitored during normal office hours)
  • To report accumulations of waste on public land, contact Northumberland County Council’s contact centre on: 0345 600 6400

Sale of fireworks licence

How to apply for a sale of fireworks license and when businesses are allowed to sell fireworks.

The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit the sale of adult fireworks other than during the following periods:

  • on the first day of Chinese New Year and the three days immediately preceding it
  • on the day of Diwali and the three days immediately preceding it
  • during the period beginning on the 15th October and ending on the 10th November
  • during the period beginning on the 26th December and ending on the 31st December
The regulations allow that a person wishing to sell adult fireworks outside of the above periods may apply for a licence authorising such sales.

Northumberland County Council welcomes applications for licences to sell adult fireworks outside the above periods. The current annual fee is £500 and applicants may, in addition, require a licence for the storage of explosives at their premises.