London firefighters issue warning ahead of post-lockdown Bonfire season

Firefighters are preparing for a busy post-lockdown Bonfire season after the number of fires almost doubled during the week between Halloween and Bonfire Night last year.

Firefighters saw around a 90 per cent rise in fires in the period between 30 October and 9 November 2020 in comparison to the week prior, with London Fire Brigade’s 999 Control Officers taking over 600 calls on Bonfire Night alone. Firefighters attended 542 fires in this period, making the season one of the busiest times of the year for the Brigade.

In lockdown, this was an increase of more than 10 per cent from the previous year, which the Brigade believes was due to more people using fireworks at home. But this year, the Brigade is expecting it to be even busier. This is because the pent-up demand for fireworks displays during the first post-lockdown Bonfire season is expected to result in far more displays and gatherings overall, as friends and family who missed out on celebrations last year come together to host home fireworks displays.

The Brigade’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “This is always a very busy time of year for the Brigade and whilst we know that this season has been much anticipated by family and friends who weren’t able to be together at home last year, we’re asking people to consider alternative ways to celebrate rather than hosting fireworks displays at home.

“Find an organised fireworks display near you instead. They’re controlled and much safer, and it will also be more considerate for your neighbours and any pets. If you can’t attend an organised event, why not get creative with firework alternatives like glow sticks and garden lights.

“If you do choose to use fireworks, make sure you familiarise yourself with our advice, ensure you have enough space to use fireworks, carefully read the instructions and stay safe.

“Take care when buying fireworks, buy them from a reputable, licensed seller and always look for a CE mark to make sure they’re safe to use and only buy fireworks up to Category 3*. Never drink alcohol and set off fireworks and don’t throw fireworks or return to a firework once it has been lit. It’s important to also be careful with sparklers, particularly with children, as they can stay hot enough to cause serious burns even after they burn out.”

The Brigade is also urging people to avoid bonfires in gardens as they can quickly spread out of control. However, they ask that those who do choose to build a bonfire check their local authority’s advice on bonfires and always build bonfires clear of buildings, sheds and fences and never leave it unattended.

Eight fires caused by fireworks on Halloween last year

It’s not just Bonfire Night that the Brigade is concerned about, as firefighters attended eight separate incidents across London on Halloween caused by fireworks last year. A stray firework on Halloween night 2020, destroyed the balcony of a flat in Fulham.

The Brigade is also urging those planning on having candles out at Halloween or Bonfire Night, to swap to a flameless electric alternative. These battery powered lights are much safer than traditional candles and reduce the risk of setting costumes or decorations alight.

*Fireworks come in 4 categories:

  • Category 1 fireworks are low hazard fireworks. They pose the least danger, make very little noise and are for use in a limited space (including indoors). Examples include party poppers and Christmas crackers.
  • Categories 2 and 3 are ‘adult fireworks’ and are available in shops and supermarkets. These will have Category F2 or F3 on the box.
  • Category 4 fireworks are banned for sale to the public and are for professional displays only. These are available at specialist suppliers.