Bonfire & fireworks

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

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With Covid-19 restrictions in place, this year is going to be a very different Bonfire Night for everyone. We don't want anyone to get hurt, so we are asking people to not light bonfires or set off fireworks in their own gardens or backyards.

There fires can and do get out of hand very quickly and can spread to nearby property, sheds, hedges and more, so please think about this carefully before lighting any fire outside.
 
Most injuries through the bonfire period occur as a result of people building their own bonfires and setting off their own fireworks. Think twice this year.
 

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Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we have major concerns that people will want to celebrate this Bonfire night outside on their own property.


We are asking you not to light bonfires or set off fireworks in your garden or backyards. If you decide to do this, despite our warnings against it, and get into difficulty, please remember these key safety messages.
 

STOP, DROP, ROLL

Always remember, if your clothing catches fire - STOP, DROP and ROLL.
 
If your clothes catch fire, running around won't help. You must always stop, drop to the ground (cover your face with your hands) and roll over and over. Make sure you roll over a few times, to ensure that you put the fire out.
 

First aid - following a burn or scold 

Good first aid following a burn or scald can make an enormous difference in recovery times and the severity of scarring. Remember to COOL, CALL, COVER.  
 
First aid advice from the British Burn Association:  
 
1. Cool the burn with running cold tap water for 20 minutes and remove all clothing and jewellery (unless it is melted or firmly stuck to the wound).  
 
2. Call for help: 999, 111 or local GP for advice.  
 
3. Cover with cling film or a sterile, non-fluffy dressing or cloth. Make sure the patient is kept warm. 
 
We are asking you not to build a bonfire in your garden or back yard this year. We strongly discourage the setting light to any fires or letting off fireworks in gardens. However, if you are determined to do this, despite our warnings, then you need to ensure you do it safely.


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! Click here for more fire safety tips.
 

Bonfire laws 

We strongly advise that you do not have a bonfire this year. If you're determined to do this despite our warnings, remember that fire can spread easilyso please contact us on 01670 621110 if you are planning to have a bonfire. 
  • 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. 
 
We can provide 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 
 

Building a bonfire

We are asking you not to have a bonfire this year. If you do, despite our warnings against it, please 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: 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. 
We are asking you not to light fireworks in your own garden or back yard this year. We strongly discourage the setting light to any fires or letting off fireworks in gardens.

However, if you are determined to do this, despite our warnings, then you need to ensure you do it safely.



Always follow the firework code

  • Stand well back 
  • Keep pets indoors 
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box 
  • Only buy firewors that are CE marked 
  • Light at arms length, using a taper 
  • Follow the instructions on each firework 
  • Never give sparklers to a child under five – full sparkler advice here
  • 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 been lit – even if it hasn’t gone, it could still explode.  

Keep kids safe

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 Child Accident Prevention Trust and Direct.gov have more guidance on keeping kids safe.
 
Did you know that sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil? They should never be given to a child under five.



Where to buy fireworks

Don't cut corners just to save a few pounds. Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they are CE marked.
 
Sometimes shops open 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 the required safety standard. 
 
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.

If you think a shop is unregistered, or selling fireworks illegally, contact the please click here for advice from the Trading Standards Team.



Setting off fireworks

Setting 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 to put fireworks in 
  • Suitable supports and launchers if you’re setting off catherine wheels or rockets

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. 
 
If you are under 18 years of age 
If you are under 18, you can't: 
  • Buy the types of fireworks which can only be sold to adults  
  • Have fireworks in public areas 
If you do, the police can give you an on-the-spot fine of £80.
 
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
 

Be careful with fireworks 

Watch ‘Ryan’s Regret’ and see how the incorrect use of fireworks can cause devastating effects.

Sparkler safety

  • Please supervise children when they are 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. 
 

Protect your animals

You should take precautions to protect your pets during the times of the year when fireworks are likely to be set off. 
  • Animals can get very scared from the loud bangs and flashes associated with firework displays. To ease their distress, keep them indoors and close the curtains to make things calmer.
  • 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.
  • Livestock of horses:
    • If your animals are stabled, check thoroughly for anything that could cause potential injury such as protruding nails and string.
    • If your animals are staying in the field, check that fencing is not broken and that there are no foreign objects lying around. 

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 faces 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: During office hours:

8:30am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, and 8:30am to 4:30pm on Friday.
  • Email firesafety1@northumberland.gov.uk 
  • Call us on 01670 621110 
Outside office hours:
  • Call us on 01670 627599
You can find out what is defined as an arson risk and more information on how to tackle them here. 

To report accumulations of waste on public land, contact Northumberland County Council’s contact centre on 0345 600 6400.
 
Please see below for how to apply for a sale of fireworks license and when businesses are allowed to sell fireworks.


Fireworks for private use can only be sold by a registered seller at certain times of the year:
  • between 15 October and 10 November
  • between 26 December and 31 December
  • three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year
If you wish to apply to sell fireworks during these periods, or renew your licence, please click here to download an application form.

The Regulations also allow that a person wishing to sell adult fireworks outside of the above periods may apply for an annual licence.

Northumberland County Council welcomes applications for these licences. The current fee for this £500 per year. 
 
If you wish to apply for an annual licence or would like to discuss any other matters please feel free to contact the Trading Standards Service for further information on tradingstandards@northumberland.gov.uk or by phone on 01670 623870.
For further advice on bonfire and firework safety, please contact us by phone or email:


To report accumulations of waste on public land, contact Northumberland County Council’s contact centre on 0345 600 6400.

During office hours:

8:30am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, and 8:30am to 4:30pm on Fridays. Outside office hours:
  • Call us on 01670 627599