Bonfire & fireworks displays

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

More children are injured by fireworks than adults. Fireworks can be a lot of fun, but only when handled correctly.

Watch ‘Ryan’s Regret’ and see how the incorrect use of fireworks can cause devastating effects. 
 
Follow the list of safety points below to stay safe if you are building your own bonfire.

Sparkler safety:

  • 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.

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!

 

Bonfire laws

Fire can spread easily, so 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 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
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: 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.
Help to keep you and your loved ones safe when using fireworks. Whether you use them in your own back garden, or at a community display, follow our advice to stay safe.

Buying your fireworks:

  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114 or with a CE mark – this shows the firework meets British or European safety standards
  • 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.
Using fireworks:
  • Always have buckets of water prepared to put out small fires or cool sparklers.
  • Never drink alcohol. This increases the 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:
  • 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 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 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 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. 

Firework laws

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.
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.
 
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
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 use the following 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.