The annual tradition of Bonfire Night is a way of remembering the events of 5th November 1605, when the famous Guy Fawkes plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I. Bonfires across London were lit to celebrate the Kings survival and in January 1606, the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act 1605 was enforced an as annual public day.

Fast-forward many years and Bonfire celebrations have exploded into a night of large parties and gatherings with huge bonfires and firework displays.

Although these displays are a lot of fun to watch, they can also be dangerous and a lot of safety measures should be put in place to ensure everyone is kept safe.

Bonfires

Bonfires must be controlled at a distance of about 18m away from houses, tress, hedges, fences and outbuildings. Choose a safe site, preferably clear the area of any debris and dig a shallow hole. The benefit of the hole should ensure the fire does not catch and spread along dry grass.

When building the bonfire structure (before being lit), make sure the structure is stable and less likely to collapse at one side. Never use petrol, paraffin or any other flammable liquids on the bonfire and instead use domestic firelighters. It’s also advised to not burn any domestic waste as this causes pollution and harms people’s health.

Whilst enjoying the spectacular display, make sure yourself and all those around you keep well back in a safe area, and always have buckets of water at hand. Once the display is over, use the buckets of water to extinguish the fire. Although the fire may appear safe, if left unattended a new fire can start from any small flames.

Fireworks

Firework displays are exciting to watch and a favourite for many. The dazzling shows are fun to attend but still come with important precautions.  

Only adults should deal with setting up firework displays and it is recommended to follow the simple steps of the Firework Code.

  1. Only buy fireworks from licenced retailers.
  2. Only buy fireworks that comply with the current safety standards.
  3. Fireworks must be kept in a closed box and taken out one at a time.
  4. Never put fireworks in your pocket.
  5. Be considerate of your neighbours. Let them know you will be having a display, especially if they are elderly, have pets or have children.
  6. Ensure your pets are safe.
  7. Avoid setting fireworks off late at night.
  8. Carefully follow the instructions of each firework.
  9. Never go back to a lit firework unless the instructions advise otherwise.
  10. Never throw fireworks.
  11. Light fireworks one at a time, at the end of the fuse, and at arm’s length.

Sparklers

Children love sparklers and you can see their excitement as they swirl their names with the fizzling sparks. Whilst they are great fun, they can also be dangerous if not used correctly.

Like fireworks, make sure the product is from a licensed retailer and always check the manufacturer’s instructions before use. Ensure everyone is wearing gloves and long-sleeved coats to avoid any sparks flying around. Sparklers should be held at arm’s length with one person holding it as another lights it.

Keep plenty of buckets of water or sand nearby for people to extinguish their sparklers so they don’t have to walk far.

Pets and Wildlife

Whilst bonfire night is very exciting for us, this however is not the case for animals. The loud noises from fireworks are likely to frighten and scare any animal whether they are your pet or wildlife. Keep your pets indoors and close all windows and doors. Have at least one person indoors with your pets to comfort them if they are stressed or play gentle music to distract them.

Try to be considerate for the wildlife around you. Animals such as birds, squirrels and foxes are not always seen in our gardens but are very much affected by the loud noises.

If you are having a bonfire you must check for any hedgehogs before lighting. November is the time when hedgehogs start to search for hibernation homes and unlit bonfires are the ideal spot. Try to build your bonfire just before lighting to avoid any unexpected guests making their way into the structure. If you need to build your bonfire ahead of lighting, check the structure or move it to a different location.

If you’re going to be having a bonfire or plan to set off any fireworks, you must assess the risks involved and put the necessary safety provisions in place, including those highlighted here. This will ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable night.

Always remember to Stop, Drop and Roll if your clothing catches fire, and Cool, Call and Cover any burns.

With all these things in mind we hope you have a safe and fun Bonfire Night!

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