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If you are having a bonfire, whether it's to get rid of garden waste or part of a celebration,  such as Bonfire Night, take care.

Follow the simple tips below to make sure you, and others, are safe and acting lawfully. 

Burning household waste is not permitted and can result in fines of up to £20,000 from local authorities. Read more on

When we are called to out of control bonfires, we will give advice to the individual and post leaflets to neighbours to clarify the legal position.

Building a bonfire

Fire can spread easily, so where and how you build your bonfire is important. If you have a bonfire, follow these simple guidelines:       

  • warn your neighbours beforehand - they are much less likely to complain
  • light the bonfire at a time least likely to affect your neighbours - eg not on a warm day when people will be in their garden    
  • only burn dry material not damp, which causes more smoke  
  • build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees
  • check there are no cables - like telephone wires - above the bonfire
  • don't use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going - it may get out of control quickly

Bonfire safety tips

Once the bonfire is lit, make sure you:

  • keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby - in case of emergencies
  • don't leave the bonfire unattended
  • keep children and pets away from the bonfire
  • don't throw any fireworks into the fire
  • don't burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint - many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode, causing injury

Once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water to stop it reigniting.

Getting rid of your garden waste without a bonfire

You can get rid of your garden waste without making a bonfire. Most garden waste, like grass cuttings and leaves, can be recycled by composting.

Bonfires and the law                       

There are no laws against having a bonfire but there are laws for the nuisance they can cause.  For further information visit:  

Burning domestic waste

It is an offence to get rid of domestic waste in a way likely to cause pollution or harm to human health, including burning it.

Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials creates poisonous fumes and can have damaging health effects for people who have asthmatic or heart conditions.

This is covered under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

To contact Environmental Health, please contact your local council and ask for the Environmental Health Department.  

Danger to traffic caused by smoke

Under the Highways Act 1980, anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine if it endangers traffic. If this happens, call the police.