Bonfire and fireworks displays

also known as: Bonfires, Fireworks.

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

Bonfire Safety

What NOT to wear around a bonfire

  • Never wear loose clothing (like a tracksuit or a long dangly scarf), they can easily catch alight
  • Never wear clothes which are labelled ‘highly flammable’ they can catch alight
  • Remember: if anyone’s clothes do catch on fire STOP don’t run DROP to the ground and ROLL over to put the flame out

Building your bonfire

Follow these tips to keep everyone safe: 

  • site the bonfire at least 18 meters from buildings or trees
  • do not build beside electricity or telephone lines
  • have enough helpers and equipment
  • height must be less than 3 meters 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: any bonfires built on public land without a permit, for instance a public park or sports field will be removed.

Lighting your bonfire - follow these simple guidelines to stay safe:

  • Before lighting, check that there are no children or animals in your bonfire
  • Make sure your bonfire is well away from a road, never light a bonfire if the smoke will drift across onto a road or you will be fined for endangering traffic
  • Keep spectators away at a distance of at least 6m
  • Do not burn aerosols, tyres, canisters, plastics or anything containing foam or paint, many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode, causing injury
  • Never leave the bonfire unattended and keep children and animals away from it
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby incase 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
  • Always check the fire again later to be on the safe side

Bonfires and the law  - please note:

  • 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 asthmatic 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.

Sparkler safety tips

  • Children should always been supervised when using sparklers
  • Never give a child under the age of 5 a sparkler
  • Always wear gloves
  • Never light more than one sparkler at a time
  • Once the sparkler is finished, put it hot end down in a bucket of water or sand

If you want more advice, please contact us

Fire can spread easily, so please get in touch with Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) if you are planning to have a bonfire. We can provide you with 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 NFRS on 01670 627599 for advice. 

Firework safety

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. It doesn’t matter whether your event is in your own back garden, or a community display, follow our advice to keep your friends and family safe.

For more detailed information, you can also read our 'Giving your own Fireworks Display' booklet here and read our fireworks code leaflet here.


Buying your fireworks

  • Don’t buy fireworks from anywhere except one of the 53 registered sellers which can be found here.
  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114 or with a CE mark – this shows that the firework meets British or European safety standards (a registered seller will know this).
  • Fireworks for private use can only be sold by a registered seller between 15 October and 10 November (around Bonfire Night), between 26 December and 31 December (for New Year’s Eve), 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year – for the rest of the year, you can only buy fireworks from shops that are licensed to supply them.
  • If you are under 18, you can’t buy the types of fireworks which can be sold only to adults or have fireworks in a public places. Iff you do, the police can give you an on-the-spot fine of £80.

If you think a shop is unregistered, or selling fireworks when they shouldn’t, contact the trading standards team.

When using fireworks

  • Always have a bucket of water prepared: to cool sparklers and put out any small fires
  • Never drink alcohol: A large percentage of people drink alcohol at fireworks parties in back gardens. This increases the risk of injury and makes adults less able to supervise children properly during the display. To keep your friends and family safe, try to limit the availability of alcohol at your event, keep guests who are drinking alcohol well away from fireworks and the bonfire and never drink alcohol if you’re setting off fireworks.

Lighting fireworks- follow these simple guidelines to stay safe:

  • Only one person should be responsible for letting off fireworks, so nominate one person.
  • Don’t drink alcohol if you’re setting off fireworks- alcohol and fireworks don’t mix –nominate people who are not drinking alcohol to take charge of the fireworks displays
  • Follow the instructions on each firework – read them in daylight or by 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 – never carry them in your pocket.
  • 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.
  • Never throw spent fireworks on a bonfire.

Please remember...

Alcohol and fireworks don’t mix

  • Please remember alcohol and fireworks don’t mix, ditch the drink to keep yourself, your friends and family safe.

Pets and animals

  • Most animals can get very scared from the loud bangs and flashes associated with fireworks displays. To ease their distress, keep your pets indoors and close all the curtains to make things calmer. Remember, it's not just your own fireworks that cause them to be scared, so you may need to have 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 either imprisonment up to 51 weeks, a fine of up to £20,000, or both.

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, or between midnight and 7am on Bonfire Night, or 1am and 7am for New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year
  • Under 18s cannot buy or possess adult fireworks

If found guilty by the courts, you could be fined an on the spot fine of £80 or up to £5,000 and can face charges, imprisonment for up to three months and receive a criminal record.


Reporting arson and safety risks

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

  • 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.

If you discover a potential arson risk, please let us know by reporting it in one of the following ways:

Office hours: 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Thursday, and 8:30am to 4:30pm on Friday

You can find out what is defined as an arson risk here and find more information on how to tackle them.

Contact us

For further advice on bonfire on firework safety contact Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service on:

To report accumulations of waste on public land contact Northumberland County Council's contact centre on:

  • Phone: 0345 600 6400