Firefighters urge people not to light bonfires in their gardens

Firefighter dealing with a bonfireFirefighters in Cheshire are urging people to think twice before they light a bonfire or have a firework displaying their garden this year.

Due to Covid-19 and the  current restrictions, and the fact that all professionally organised bonfires are cancelled, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is concerned that the spike they saw in garden fires at the start of lockdown may repeat itself around Bonfire Night.

This concern could well be realised if people decide to light bonfires and set off fireworks themselves. Starting any fire can be extremely dangerous and may lead to disastrous consequences so the Service is encouraging people to consider safer options to celebrate Bonfire Night that doesn’t involve flames or fireworks.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Deliberate Fire Reduction Manager, Station Manager Andy Gray, is concerned that people may underestimate how quickly fires can escalate out of control and how unpredictable fireworks can be in people’s gardens and other areas. 

He said: “Our top priority during this period is to ensure public safety. I would ask people not to be tempted to celebrate this Bonfire Night with a fire and fireworks display in their own garden.

“Our message is clear – please don’t be tempted to do so as it brings with it a huge amount of risk.

“Any fire can quickly get out of hand and spread to fences, sheds and properties. It can also cause harm and endanger life. I would therefore urge people to stay safe by thinking of other ways of celebrating the event instead.”

Suggestions for an alternative safer Bonfire Night include planning a themed meal or a having a special movie or games night together with the people in your household.

Firefighters will be working closely with police and local authorities in the run up to Bonfire Night, to help keep the number of incidents as low as possible, so if anyone spots a build-up of rubbish, intended to be used as a bonfire, they need to report it to their local council immediately using the relevant number.

  • In Halton report unlit dangerous bonfires by calling 0303 333 4300

  • In Warrington report unlit dangerous bonfires by calling 01925 443322

  • In Cheshire East report unlit dangerous bonfires by calling 0300 123 5011

  • In Cheshire West And Chester report unlit dangerous bonfires by calling 0300 123 7026

Wheelie bins are also a real hazard if left outside properties and could be involved in a deliberately set fire. Please only put your bins out on collection day and always keep them stored away securely at all other times.

Since the start of lockdown (March 23 2020) the Service saw a 93 per cent increase in its 999 calls for firefighters to attend fires involving private/domestic gardens/allotments over a six month period (ending Sept 30 2020), compared to the same period in 2019.

Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of fires attended during this period were accidental due to people lighting them in their gardens and these either got out of control or were left unattended and spread to nearby fences, hedges, sheds or property.

Andy added: “We saw the impact garden fires had on our emergency cover at the start of lockdown so our concerns are genuine. This is the busiest time of year for our firefighters anyway - the concern is that this resource could be stretched even further.

“We do understand that people will want to celebrate Bonfire Night, but I would hope that this year they follow our advice and consider safer options.

“If they don’t, I would seriously urge them to take extra care and think about safety first, before enjoyment.”

Current Covid-19 restrictions across Cheshire mean that we can not gather in groups of more than 6 outside, or socially mix inside. From 5 November, these restrictions will be even greater as we move into a national lockdown, meaning no-one will be able to mix with people outside their families or support bubbles, whether inside or outside.

Residents are asked to bear this in mind when planning their Bonfire Night celebrations. Superintendent Jo Marshall-Bell, from Cheshire Constabulary, said: “It has been a tough year for many, and we recognise that seasonal festivities are really important for mental health and wellbeing.

“We really want you to have fun this Bonfire Night but to do so safely, within the law and bearing in mind the current situation with the pandemic.

“This year we need to celebrate a little differently, and now more than ever we need to pull together to help slow the spread of the virus.

“I’m confident the majority of residents will stick to the rules, but there will be an increased officer presence across the county to provide reassurance and for anyone who may have any concerns over the Bonfire period.”

For more information about bonfire and firework safety please visit our advice page.

Related images

Firefighter dealing with a bonfire