Page last updated 06 August 2015

Bonfires and firework displays

Private bonfires

Our advice is to attend an organised bonfire if possible.

  • Bonfires should be built at least 18 metres from any buildings, trees, fences etc
  • 3 metres high for private events and should not be built under overhead cables
  • Do not use petrol or any other flammable liquid to start a bonfire
  • Always check inside the bonfire for animals or children who could be using it as a den

Organising a bonfire

Running a display takes a lot of work, so try to share the load by planning ahead.

  • Set up a committee whose members can each take responsibility for a particular task (including one person to be in charge of all safety arrangements)
  • Arrange for fire extinguishers, buckets of water, buckets of sand and metal litter bins to be available on the night
  • Check that plenty of torches will be available on the night, with full batteries
  • Publicise the fact that spectators are not allowed to bring their own fireworks (including sparklers)
  • Draw up a detailed checklist of tasks and indicate who is to be responsible for each one
  • Check whether you are adequately insured to cover any firework-related injuries to those present at the display

Proper crowd control

This is essential and needs good planning: 

  • Arrange for some stewards
  • Take great care at all times 
  • Plan your display in advance 
  • Do not allow smoking

Picking the right location

You should choose a large, clear and well mown area free from obstructions, well away from any buildings, trees and hazards, like overhead cables, with as many safe entrances and exits as possible.

These must be:

  • Away from the firing area and dropping zone
  • Allow at least 50m x 20m for your firing area
  • Beyond this you will need a dropping zone for spent fireworks of 100m x 50m in the downwind direction
  • Spectators should be kept back on the opposite side to the dropping zone at least 25m from the firing area
  • Before lighting any firework, read the instructions on it carefully (by torchlight)
  • Make sure that the wind blows away from spectators
  • The display should be angled away from spectators
  • Never use matches or lighters for lighting fireworks at a display
  • A sudden change of wind could cause aerial fireworks to fall dangerously among spectators

In very windy weather you should consider putting off the display altogether, however disappointing that might be.

Bonfires need planning too

  • Don't site it too near your display or firework storage area 
  • Don't site it anywhere near fences or trees
  • Never use flammable liquids like paraffin or petrol to get it going, as this can result in uncontrolled spread of fire or explosion
  • Check immediately before lighting that there is no animals or young children hidden inside
  • Don't burn dangerous rubbish (eg aerosols, paint tins or foam filled furniture)
  • Remove any rubbish from your bonfire area in advance so nothing can be thrown onto the fire on the night

Please use the guidance below to assist you in making the event safe:

After the event

The bonfire needs to be put out completely before you leave the site.

Fireworks registration

Explosives/firework law is enforced by Trading Standards. For further information please visit the Trading Standards website

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