Bonfire safety

Last Updated: 3 April 2024

If you are having problems with a bonfire speak to your neighbour and let them know it’s causing problems, hopefully they will put it out.

If you think the fire is genuinely dangerous, call the Fire Service using 999.

If the smoke, ash or smell from fires are affecting you regularly at your property this may be a statutory nuisance.

Contact us to discuss matters further:

Report a smell related problem

Report a smoke related problem

Bonfire safety: before the display 

It is important to plan well ahead and to involve the organisations listed below as early as possible.

  • the Fire Brigade
  • the Police
  • the local council (Food and Safety Group) 
  • an appropriate first aid organisation (to provide facilities for handling burns, injuries etc)
  • the local media
  • the coastguard if a firework display is to be held within five miles of the coast

In some locations it may be helpful to warn other people, farmers on nearby farms or occupiers of nearby residential, commercial or industrial premises; who may be affected.

One person should be placed in charge of the safety arrangements. These duties will include: 

  • ensuring that the bonfire is built safely
  • keeping the public at a safe distance
  • making sure that the bonfire is extinguished safely
  • making sure that there are suitable phones in place for emergency use and calling the emergency services, if necessary

The organisers of the event should also ensure that there is adequate insurance to cover personal injury and damage. Any traders on site should have their own insurance.

Stewards and stewarding

It is important to have enough stewards, and for them to be suitably trained by a competent person, to ensure the safety of the people attending.

There should be one steward to every 250 (or part of 250) people present, in addition more stewards may be needed to cover each entrance/exit and to carry out the duties listed below. The actual number should be agreed in advance with the police and the local council.

Duties of the stewards may include:

  • acting as car park attendants
  • providing information
  • monitoring the bonfire area
  • keeping spectators behind barriers
  • ensuring that nothing is thrown onto the bonfire and that it does not spread
  • managing the public (particularly if alcohol is allowed)
  • calling and liaising with the emergency services
  • collecting rubbish
  • clearing up after the bonfire
  • seeing that the bonfire is extinguished

Stewards should be over 18 years of age and readily identifiable, for example by wearing a fluorescent jacket. They should be constantly watching for problems in the crowd, such as disorderly behaviour or emergencies.

Stewards should know who is in charge of the event and have a means of contacting them, two-way radio at large events. They should know the location of phones for emergency use. They should stay until the event is over and ensure that the site is safe to be left.

Access to and exit from the site 

There should be a suitable entrance, or entrances, for emergency vehicles previously agreed with the emergency services and kept clear of obstruction until the event is over.

Emergency vehicles should be met by the person in charge of safety or a Senior Steward on arrival.

In enclosed areas, eg those with a fence, sufficient entrances and exits of adequate width, including emergency exits; should be provided to allow spectators to enter in an orderly manner and to leave easily at the end of the display. The needs of any spectators with disabilities should also be considered.

Artificial lighting

If there is no local lighting, lamps should be provided at all entrances and exits so that people can arrive and leave safely. The organiser should also provide each steward with a torch so that they can guide the crowd.

Warning signal

Organisers and stewards should have a pre-arranged coded signal to warn them that an emergency has developed and that help is required. The signal should be heard throughout the site but it should not cause panic amongst the spectators. At larger events a public address system may be used, and at smaller displays loud hailers could be used.