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Smoke from bonfires can cause a statutory nuisance if not conducted responsibly and can ultimately result in court action and fines.

Bonfires can be very annoying due to the smoke and odour that is produced. Smoke stops people from enjoying their homes and gardens, opening windows, hanging washing out etc. It can also trigger some medical conditions such as asthma.

Air Pollution

Burning waste on a bonfire produces smoke, especially if it is damp and smoldering. This smoke contains pollutants such as carbon monoxide, dioxins and fine particles.

Burning plastic, rubber or painted material not only creates an unpleasant smell but a range of poisonous compounds.

Legal Requirements

Smoke from bonfires may constitute a statutory nuisance, this can result in us serving an Abatement Notice. Contravention of such a notice could the person who owns the land or property where the fire is  liable, on summary conviction, to the following fines

  • Industrial / Commercial Premises - Maximum Fine £20,000
  • Domestic Premises - Maximum Fine £5,000 + £50 per Day

It is also an offence to emit dark smoke from industrial / commercial premises. This need not be observed at the time of a visit but may be assumed from material evident on a bonfire site which has previously been burned. On summary conviction, person(s) responsible may be fined up to £20,000.

Emissions of dark smoke are exempted only if they result from the burning of matter covered by the Clean Air (Emission of Dark Smoke) Regulations 1969.

It is an offence to burn insulation from a cable with a view to recovering metal from the cable. This legislation applies to all premises and, on summary conviction, person(s) responsible may be fined up to £5000.

Other Controls

This includes, for example, tenant - landlord agreements. These often have clauses designed to prevent tenants from causing an annoyance or nuisance to their neighbours. This could include smoke from a bonfire.

Alternative Disposal

Composting, recycling and collection of waste offer alternatives to burning rubbish on a bonfire. For example you can;

  • Compost garden waste which can produce a useful soil conditioner and also help to save you money.
  • Take domestic waste to a Council disposal site.  

Bonfire Guides

In order to avoid problems and possible legal action, it is recommended that you follow the checklist below:

  • Only burn dry material.
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint.
  • Never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light a bonfire or to 'encourage it'.
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening.
  • Avoid burning if the wind will take any smoke into neighbours gardens / houses and across roads.
  • Avoid burning at weekends and on bank holidays when people want to enjoy their gardens.
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smolder.

Bonfires can be dangerous. Fire can spread to fences or buildings and scorch trees and plants. Exploding bottles and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned.

The Fire and Rescue Service will deal with bonfires if there is a risk to the safety of people or buildings. For further information and advice you should contact your local fire and rescue service office.

How to report a problem

Make a note of where the bonfire is occurring and report it to us using the online form

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