As the evenings draw in and Halloween passes, that traditional British pastime of burning wood, leaves, effigies and whatever else we can get our hands on fills our imagination. The thickness and the scent of the smoky air on Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes’ Night truly announces the coming winter and makes many of us nostalgic for baked potatoes, toffee apples and writing our names in the air with a glowing sparkler.
This is also the time of year that fire brigades and newscasters remind us to be careful, check our bonfires for hedgehogs and keep pets indoors. But that message still fails to get across to many of us, whether we’re burning fires to remember the 5th of November or letting loose fireworks to celebrate Diwali (which takes place on 11th November this year). House fires and personal injuries still happen in far too large numbers as a result of our failure to listen or to plan.
So here are our five golden rules for bonfire night safety, whether you’re having a bonfire at home or letting off fireworks. Be sure to have a safe Bonfire Night and a danger-free Diwali.
1. Always make your bonfire a good distance from the house and put it on soil rather than on a grassy area or overgrown part of the garden. If you have a tiny garden then attend an organised bonfire locally instead. Heat can ignite fences or trees near to your fire and may be difficult to control so ensure that you make it well away from fences and trees. Always keep a bucket of water handy just in case and if you have an outdoor pipe then attach your hosepipe to it before you light the fire.
2. Never use accelerants on your fire. Building a good fire is a skill and one that is useful to learn. Adding fuel to the fire can take it out of control far quicker than you may imagine. Don’t throw anything in the fire other than wood or paper products. Cans or batteries can explode when heated.
3. Put a coat on. Not just to protect your clothes from burning embers that may fly up from the fire, but also to make sure you don’t need to stand right by the fire to stay warm. It is easy to lose balance and fall into a fire, especially if you’ve been enjoying a drink as you watch the fireworks.
4. Make sure that children handling sparklers are wearing gloves. These become very hot as they burn – even hotter if you burn more than one at a time. They can burn even as they cool down. Don’t give a sparkler to any child under the age of five or a child who is not able to use it safely.
5. Only let adults light fireworks. Make sure the fireworks are placed safely and only light one at a time. They should be lit at arm’s length using a special lighter and at no point should you be holding them while they’re lit. Other fireworks should be kept in a safe place where the fire or other fireworks cannot set fire to them. Never return to a lit firework, even if it appears to be a dud. Some take a while to go off and can injure you if they ignite near you unexpectedly.
For help getting your garden tidied up ready for a Bonfire Night party, post your job in our Gardener/Garden Designer category. Up to three tradesmen can contact you to quote and you’ll be able to view their profile pages, complete with customer ratings, to help you decide who to hire.