Garden fireworks and bonfires can be a great way to celebrate with family and friends. But before you get toasting marshmallows and marvelling at the sky, it’s important to make sure you’re doing things safely.
Public firework displays are always the safest way to spend bonfire night. But if having sparklers and an open fire in your back garden is your prerogative, here’s how to have a safe bonfire and firework night at home.
Is It Legal to Have Garden Fireworks & Bonfires?
It is legal to set off fireworks in your garden in the UK. However, there are some rules you need to follow:
- You cannot buy fireworks if you’re under 18
- You can only use category 2 and 3 fireworks in your garden (category 4 can only be used by professionals)
- You must set off fireworks on your grounds only (doing so safely)
- You can only buy fireworks on selected dates from reputable sellers
You also have a responsibility to use them safely and dispose of unused/unexploded fireworks properly.
How to Safely Have Garden Fireworks
1. Choose the Best Sizes
If you want to safely have garden fireworks, choose ones that are appropriate for the size of your garden. Fireworks come in little and large designs, so if you have a small garden, choose appropriately. The shop you buy your fireworks from can offer advice on the best fireworks for small or large gardens.
2. Do a Mini Risk Assessment
Having garden fireworks is all about having fun. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be safe! There’s no need to go overboard, but doing a mini risk assessment before you have fireworks in your garden is a great idea.
Take note of potential hazards, like fences, overhanging trees or washing lines. Make sure you’re not setting off fireworks anywhere near them.
Also, consider measuring how far away spectators need to be from the fireworks. Tape a line in your garden as a precaution to prevent anyone from creeping forwards while they enjoy the view.
3. Tell Your Neighbours
Telling your neighbours that you’re planning on having garden fireworks is one of the best courtesy’s you can extend. Not only because they can watch them from their windows. But if they have pets – like cats, dogs or outdoor rabbits – they can prepare them for the event.
This is especially important if you’re letting off fireworks on unusual days. While most pet-owners will be prepared on Bonfire Night, New Years’ Eve, etc, they may not be expecting them any other time.
4. Follow the Instructions
Rule-breakers, take a backseat on firework night! Following the instructions for how to set off the fireworks you’ve bought will help keep everyone safe. Check the rulebook before you buy and make sure you follow every precaution.
Also, make sure you always position fireworks pointing away from you and never run to pick them up if they fall over. If it’s fallen and heading your way, run away and make sure everyone else does, too!
5. Keep Your Distance
Always keep your distance when having fireworks in your garden. If the firework doesn’t go off after a while, give it a bit of extra time before investigating.
When you light your fireworks, do it at arm’s length and make sure you move away as quickly as possible.
How to Dispose of Unused or Unexploded Fireworks
Sometimes, fireworks don’t go off. If your firework doesn’t explode (or you just decide not to set them off), you have a responsibility to dispose of them safely.
The best way to do this is to soak them in water for several hours before bagging and placing them in your general waste.
Check the instructions for specific advice about how to dispose of the fireworks you have.
How to Safely Have a Bonfire
1. Choose a Good Location
Choose somewhere good for your marshmallow toasting bonfire. Pick a good spot that’s away from anything wooden or flammable – like sheds, fences, trees and, of course, your house! Make sure there aren’t any electrical wires (or washing lines!) above you that could be damaged by the flames.
2. Use a Pit
Having a bonfire in the middle of your lawn isn’t the safest bet – plus it can ruin your grass! Keep your bonfire contained and use something safe to have it in. Things like metal containers, built-in fire pits or chimineas are great choices.
3. Burn Safe Things
While most things can go up in flames, that doesn’t mean you should throw any old thing on your bonfire! Use safe fire-starters, like firelights and empty egg cartons, and only burn high-quality wood. It’ll make your bonfire last longer, without providing any nuisance smells or smoke.
The safest way to have a garden bonfire is to supervise everyone and everything – including the fire! Watch the kids around the flames and make sure everyone’s keeping a safe distance from the smoke. Nominate someone in your party to be ‘fire monitor’ who, preferably, isn’t drinking alcohol.
5. Make Sure It’s Out-Out
When the night has come to an end, make sure you’re putting out the fire completely. Even if it has died out, the embers can still set alight again in the wind. To be safe, make sure it’s out-out and pour water on it.
How to Safely Use Sparklers
Crazily waving a sparkler around in your garden is all part of the fun of bonfire night! If you’re using sparklers, here’s how to use them safely:
- Wear gloves, preferably leather
- Supervise kids
- Hold sparklers at arm’s length
- Have someone else light yours
- Keep your distance from the people around you
Bonfire night can be a busy night for emergency services with all sorts of accidents happening. But with good firework safety, it’s easy to have a great bonfire night in your garden with family and friends. With these tips, you can have a safe event that everyone enjoys.