bonfires: please be thoughtful and careful

Many of the things put on bonfires can be composted, recycled or taken to household waste sites

Links to advice from councils: Aylesbury Vale | Chiltern | Milton Keynes 
South Bucks | Wycombe | See also: Garden bonfires - the rules

Please be careful and thoughtful to people living near you if you have a bonfire, says Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.

The plea follows a number of calls to garden bonfires over the past few weeks throughout Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

Joanne Cook, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “On several occasions, we have been called out by neighbours who think the fire is out of control. One person's bonfire can be another person's 999 call.

“Perhaps now is the time for people to think longer and harder about whether they need to light bonfires at all.

“With a little thought and planning, many of the things people currently burn on bonfires can be recycled, turned into compost or taken to household waste sites.”

Top tips for a safe bonfire (if you have to have one at all)

  • 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 - for example, not on a warm day when people will be in their garden.
  • Never use flammable liquids, such as paraffin or petrol, to light the fire. 
  • Don’t leave bonfires unattended.
  • Don’t put dangerous rubbish on your bonfire like aerosols, fireworks, batteries, paint or old foam furniture. They may cause explosions or give off poisonous fumes.
  • Never leave children unsupervised and, before lighting the fire, check that no children or pets have crawled inside to hide.
  • Don’t light a bonfire if it’s windy in case burning embers blow away and start fires.
  • Site bonfires well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, hedges, overhead cables, trees, shrubs and traffic.
  • Build the stack so that it is stable and will not collapse outwards or to one side.
  • Avoid burning damp material, which causes more smoke, and keep everyone away from the fire.
  • Don't pile everything on at once. The smaller you can keep it, the less chance there is of it getting out of control.
  • For an emergency, keep buckets of water or sand ready.
  • Pour water on the embers before leaving. 

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. Click on the links below for more information:

Composting | Reducing waste and recycling