Firework and Bonfire Safety

Firework and Bonfire Safety

The best advice we can give is to attend an organised event rather than risking your safety by having your own bonfire or fireworks display.

However, if you are planning to use fireworks or organise a bonfire at home, please follow the guidelines below:

 

Fireworks

Sparkler safely

Did you know that sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil? Sparklers are not toys and should never be given to a child under five.

Where to buy

Don't cut corners just to save a few quid. Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to CE standards. CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA).British Standards.

Sometimes shops open up for a short time before Bonfire Night but these may not be the best places to buy fireworks from. Staff in these shops might not be very knowledgeable about using fireworks safely and their fireworks might not meet British Standards.

Whatever you do, don't buy fireworks from anywhere you're not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall.

What to buy

There are different categories of fireworks. Members of the public can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under Categories 1 to 3. These are fireworks that include those that you can use indoors, in your garden or at a display. Always read the packet carefully and make sure that the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.

Professional fireworks

Some fireworks can only be bought and used by firework professionals. These include: air bombs; aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar; all bangers; mini rockets; fireworks with erratic flight; some Category 2 and 3 fireworks which exceed certain size limits; and all Category 4 fireworks.

Setting them off

Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. If that's you, then make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Read the instructions in daylight and don't drink any alcohol until they've all been discharged. Make your preparations in advance, and in daylight.

On the night, you will need:

  • A torch.
  • A bucket or two of water.
  • Eye protection and gloves.
  • A bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in.
  • Suitable supports and launchers if you're setting off Catherine wheels or rockets.

 

FIREWORK SAFETY CODE

  • Ideally attend an organised display.
  • Fireworks must not be sold to any person under the age of 18.
  • Buy fireworks marked CE.
  • Keep fireworks in a closed metal box.
  • Follow the instructions on each firework.
  • Light them at arms length using a taper.
  • Stand well back.
  • Never go back to a lit firework.
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby if you are setting off fireworks in yourgarden.
  • Never throw fireworks.
  • Keep pets indoors.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix and may lead to injury.

 

Bonfires

It is much better to manage without a bonfire. But if you insist, make sure it is well away from your house and any trees, hedges, fences or sheds.

 

Private bonfires  

  • Bonfires should be built at least 18 metres from things such as buildings, trees and fences.
  • They should be no more than 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 and children who could be using them as a den.
  • Think about fire safety and also the pollution bonfires can create.

 

Organised bonfires and firework displays

  • 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 electric 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.
  • Think about fire safety and also the pollution bonfires can create.

 

General bonfire safety

  • Bonfires must be built at least 10m downwind from vegetation, tents and caravans
  • Build your bonfire well away from hedges, fences, sheds or buildings
  • Clear a patch of bare earth to build the fire on
  • Don't site it too near your display or firework storage area and don't site it anywhere near fences or trees.
  • Check immediately before lighting that there is no animal or a young child hidden inside.
  • Keep bonfires to a manageable size and evenly built so that they collapse inwards as they burn
  • Never leave a bonfire unattended
  • Never use petrol or paraffin on a fire
  • Do not put batteries, aerosols or other gas cylinders on the fire
  • Avoid having a bonfire in windy weather conditions
  • Keep children and pets well away from the area
  • Do not leave a bonfire unattended or leave it to smoulder - put it out
  • Only burn dry material
  • Remove any rubbish from your bonfire area in advance so nothing can be thrown onto the fire on the night.
  • If a bonfire does get out of control, do not attempt to tackle it yourself - call 999

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. There should be as many safe entrances and exits as possible, which must be away from the firing area and dropping zone. The firing area should be at least 50m x 20m and beyond this you will need a dropping zone for spent fireworks of 100m x 50m in the downwind direction.

The effects of fires in the countryside can be wide-ranging and very serious with large areas of the being affected. Large fires can draw on firefighting resources from across the county reducing the availability of resources for property fires, road traffic accidents and other life threatening incidents. Wildlife is particularly vulnerable to the effects of fire and smoke and natural habitats that have taken years to become established can be devastated in a matter of hours. Crops on farmland can be quickly destroyed and affect associated farm buildings. Other environmental impacts include large volumes of smoke, polluting the atmosphere and the disruption of natural water supplies and associated plant or pond life when water is taken for firefighting.


Crowd control

Spectators should be kept back on the opposite side to the dropping zone at least 25m from the firing area, so proper crowd control 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.
  • 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 fire works at a display.

A sudden change of wind could cause aerial fireworks to fall dangerously among spectators and in very windy weather you should consider putting off the display altogether, however disappointing that might be.

Flying Lanterns

Flying lanterns are also known as Chinese Lanterns, Wish Lanterns or Sky Lanterns. Traditional flying lanterns go back thousands of years in both Chinese and Thai celebrations, but are becoming more popular worldwide for celebrating weddings, birthdays, anniversaries or any other special event.

The lanterns are generally made from paper supported by a wire frame with a holder at the bottom for a solid fuel cell. The paper outer may or may not be fire retardant. Sizes and shapes vary usually 90cm high with a diameter of about 80cm. Flying times suggested by manufacturers vary from 6 minutes up to 20 minutes with heights claimed to be up to 1 mile!

Whilst lighting and launch are mostly in the control of the user, the actual flight path and end destination are usually not. There is no guarantee that the fuel cell will be completely out and cooled when the lantern eventually descends and any contact with a flammable surface could result in a fire developing.

There is evidence of them causing fires, wasting police time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading aircraft and killing livestock.

The risk of these occurrences will only increase if the use of Chinese lanterns increases, therefore North Wales Fire and Rescue Service does not support the use of these devices and asks members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them.

Whilst these lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, the potential damage they can cause is significant.

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