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Fireworks safety and bonfires

Fireworks sparkler

Advice and safety guidance on fireworks and bonfires.

Visit GOV.UK to read about fireworks: the law.

The firework code

If you are thinking of using fireworks, you should follow these safety steps:

  • Only buy fireworks with a CE mark
  • Only buy from a reputable retailer, not from car boot sales, markets or the side of the road
  • Make sure that any selection boxes are sealed when you buy them
  • Check all fireworks are not damaged or damp
  • Don't drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box
  • Follow the instructions on each firework carefully
  • Light them at arm's length using a suitable taper
  • Stand well back
  • Never go back to a lit firework, it may go off in your face
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket
  • Never throw fireworks
  • Always supervise children around fireworks
  • Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
  • Never give sparklers to children under five
  • Keep pets indoors

For more about firework safety visit the RoSPA (opens new window)(Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) website.


Sparkler safety

Safety with sparklers

  • Store sparklers and other fireworks in a closed box in a cool, dry place
  • Always light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
  • Never hold a baby or child if you have a sparkler in your hand
  • Plunge finished sparklers hot end down into a bucket of water

Children and sparklers

  • Never give sparklers to the under fives
  • Always supervise children using sparklers
  • Give children gloves to wear when holding sparklers
  • Avoid dressing children in loose or flowing clothes - they may catch light
  • Show children how to hold sparklers - away from their body at arm's length
  • Teach children not to wave sparklers near anyone else or run while holding them

In an emergency

  • Cool the burn with cold water for at least 10 minutes
  • Cut around material sticking to skin - don't pull it off
  • Don't touch the burn or burst any blisters
  • Cover the burn with clean, non-fluffy material - cling film is ideal - to prevent infection
  • If clothing catches fire, get the person to stop, drop to the floor and roll them in heavy material like a curtain


Organised firework displays

Here is some straightforward guidance to help you have an enjoyable firework display.


  • Set up a committee. One person should be in charge of safety arrangements
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance to cover personal injury and damage
  • Give details of the event to the Fire and Rescue Service


  • Choose a clear, well-mown space not less than 18 metres (60 feet) from buildings, trees, wooden fences, overhead cables, car parking areas or other firework display. Where there is less space, such as in a pub garden, the organiser should consult the fire authority.
  • Allow at least 50m x 20m for your firing area and a dropping zone for spent fireworks of 100m x 25m back on the opposite side of the dropping zone
  • The site needs a suitable entrance for emergency vehicles
  • All entrances should be well lit and wide enough for spectators
  • You should also cater for disabled spectators

Fire-fighting equipment

  • Water fire extinguisher
  • A hose (if mains water supply is available)
  • Buckets of water or sand
  • Fire beaters
  • Fire blanket


The usual ratio is one steward to every 250 people present, but more stewards may be needed to cover each entrance and exit. They may need special training, such as using the fire-fighting equipment. They should also do the following:

  • Stewards should be over 18 years of age
  • Fluorescent jackets make them easily identified
  • They should know who is in charge of the event and have a means of contacting them, such as a two-way radio
  • They should be aware of the telephones
  • They remain until the event is over and ensure that the site is safe
  • Committee members and stewards should all have torches, so check that you have plenty of batteries
  • Use prearranged coded signals, audible throughout the site, to warn the stewards when an emergency has developed

Crowd control

Do not allow spectators to bring their own fireworks, even sparklers. Have signs explaining this at the entrances.

Letting off fireworks

Involve as few people as possible. If possible use people with experience of letting off fireworks.

Further information

Health and Safety Executive guidance on organising firework displays.

The CBI Explosives Interest Group has published guides for firework displays.


Animal safety

How to keep your pets safe

  • Always keep dogs and cats inside when fireworks are being let off
  • Close all windows and doors and block off cat flaps
  • Ensure dogs are wearing some form of ID
  • Prepare a den for your pet where it can feel safe and comfortable
  • Let your pet pace around, whine, miaow and hide if it wants to
  • Try not to cuddle and comfort pets as they will think you are worried too
  • Avoid leaving pets alone during whilst fireworks are being let off
  • Don't tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off
  • Never take your dog to a firework display.

For further information on how to keep you pets safe, including small animals and horses and ponies, read the Blue Cross (opens new window) or the RSPCA (opens new window) guides.


Consider other people

Traditional celebratory events when fireworks are released are intended to be fun occasions. However, if people have not experienced these before it can cause some alarm as neighbours and people in local areas let off fireworks from their own gardens, local parks and open spaces.

Some people may find the sound and smell of fireworks and bonfires distressing and potentially upsetting, causing stress, anxiety, flashbacks and recurrence of traumatic memories. Young children and babies can be scared of the loud noises fireworks make, especially as fireworks are usually let off at night when children may already be in bed asleep. Pets and other animals can also become frightened during fireworks.



Fireworks and celebrations

Fireworks have been associated with celebrations and the marking of special events in many cultures, faiths and countries for hundreds of years.

Every year on 5 November, people across the UK celebrate Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night. There will be large bonfires and firework displays organised by community groups. Residents may also let off fireworks, use sparklers and have smaller fires in their own gardens. Most of the fireworks and bonfires will happen on 5 November, but people may also set off fireworks in the days and weeks before and after as well.

Diwali - the Hindu festival of lights, which extends over five days, is the most popular of all the festivals from South Asia. It is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. Fireworks are an integral part of the celebrations.

Eid is a time for great celebration by Muslims worldwide and fireworks are part of the celebrations - usually on the first day of Eid.

In Chinese cultures fireworks are used to celebrate the New Year, weddings, births and religious festivals.


How safe is your bonfire?

We would prefer that you didn't build bonfires at home but if you are having a bonfire to get rid of your garden waste please take extra care. Fire can spread easily and quickly, please do not be tempted to accelerate the process by adding flammable liquids as this can cause significant and serious injury, sometimes with fatal consequences. Please follow our guidance to assist you.

Planning your bonfire:

Building your bonfire

  • Site well away from houses, garages, sheds, wooden fences, overhead cables, trees and shrubs, at least 18 metres (60 feet)
  • Build the stack so that it is stable and will not collapse, on a solid surface if possible, such as concrete or compacted bare earth
  • Keep it to a manageable size and evenly built so it collapses inwards as it burns
  • Never include dangerous rubbish such as aerosols, batteries, foam-filled furniture, tyres or anything containing plastic or paint

 Lighting your bonfire

  • Never use flammable liquids - paraffin, kerosene or petrol - to light the fire
  • Only burn dry material, damp material produces more smoke
  • Ensure your starter material is dry and consider using fire lighters
  • Always site your bonfire away from fireworks
  • Do not throw anything into the fire

Stay safe and double check

  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp still days
  • If it is too windy, smoke will blow into neighbours' gardens and windows, and across roads
  • Keep a bucket of water, the garden hose or a fire extinguisher ready
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - we would recommend that a bonfire should be supervised by an adult until extinguished
  • Advise your neighbours that you intend to light a bonfire - this helps us to reduce the number of non-essential calls to 999
  • If the bonfire gets out of control and catches foliage or property alight, call the Fire and Rescue Service (999) immediately

Alternative actions

Although a bonfire may be an environmentally sound way of reducing garden waste it's much safer and better to compost vegetative waste where you can.


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