Safety in the garden

If you enjoy spending time in your garden, perhaps having BBQ’s or burners in the summer, or fireworks or sparklers in the winter, then read on down for some great safety info on keeping you and your family safe in your garden.

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Having a barbecue in the garden should be safe and enjoyable, but it’s all too easy to be distracted by friends and family while you’re cooking.

Never pour petrol, meths or other accelerants on to a barbecue. Some of the worst barbecue-related burns we see happen when people do this and the barbecue ‘explodes’ in their face.

  • make sure your barbecue’s in good working order
  • always barbecue on a flat site, well away from sheds, fences, trees or shrubs
  • keep children, garden games and pets well away from the cooking area
  • never leave the barbecue unattended
  • keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies
  • ensure the barbecue is cool before moving it
  • use only enough charcoal to cover the base, to a depth of about 50mm (2 inches)
  • only use recognised fire-lighters or starter fuel, and only on cold coals – use the minimum necessary and never use petrol
  • never put hot ashes straight into a dustbin or wheelie bin – they could melt the plastic and cause a fire
  • don’t use indoors, in a tent or an enclosed space. There’s a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, even when extinguished
  • make sure the tap is turned off before changing the gas cylinder
    change cylinders outdoors if possible, or in a well-ventilated area
  • if you suspect a leak to the cylinder or pipe work, brush soapy water around the joints and watch for bubbles – tighten to fix, but do not overtighten
  • after cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before turning off at the controls to ensure any residual gas in the pipe work is used up
  • Never take a smouldering or lit BBQ (charcoal or gas) into a tent, caravan or cabin. Even if you have finished cooking your BBQ will still give off fumes for some hours after use
  • When you have finished cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before you turn off the BBQ controls – this means any gas in the hose and pipework will be used up.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas, created when fuels such as natural gas, wood and charcoal fail to combust fully, due to a lack of oxygen. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but it can kill quickly with no warning. For further information see our carbon monoxide page.


We recommend always attending organised bonfires but, if you’re thinking of having a bonfire in your garden, please follow the safety advice below to make it as safe as possible:

  • always site bonfires well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, trees and anything that could catch fire
  • build your bonfire carefully to ensure it won’t collapse to one side when lit
  • never use flammable liquids such as paraffin or petrol to light the fire
  • keep buckets of water or a hosepipe nearby in case of emergency – but call 999 immediately if the fire gets out of hand
  • keep people, especially children, away from the fire. If children are present, supervise them at all times
  • don’t burn foam-filled furniture, aerosols, bottles or paints
  • never leave a bonfire unattended
  • always pour water over embers to ensure they’re fully extinguished before leaving them.

Nuisance fires

The fire service will only attend bonfires that are out of control or left unattended. For all other bonfire and air pollution matters, you need to contact your local council. We’ve made this easier by giving you a list of all the West Midlands councils with links to their nuisance reporting pages. Just click the button below.

FAQ on bonfires and council information

Fireworks and sparklers

Fireworks often play a big part in celebrations like Bonfire Night, Diwali and New Year.

Between 2014 and 2019, our firefighters responded to some 1,760 bonfire and fireworks-related incidents, so we’re asking people in the West Midlands to help avoid a surge this year.

During the same period, there were more than 1,000 severe burn injuries involving fireworks in England and Wales, with 38% of these involving under-15s and the majority being male.

Users often forget that fireworks are explosives and burn at high temperatures, so they need careful handling and storage.

If you do have your own fireworks display, follow our safety tips and guides below.

  • keep pets indoors – animals can get scared by the lights and noise from fireworks
  • never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
  • never throw used fireworks on a bonfire
  • take care around bonfires – all clothes, even those labelled ‘low flammability’, can catch fire.

There are laws about when fireworks can be sold, who can buy them and the times they can be set off.

If you’re under 18 you can’t buy the types of fireworks which can be sold only to adults, and you can’t have fireworks in public places. If you do, the police can give you an on-the-spot fine.

It is illegal to:

  • set off or throw fireworks in the street or other public place
  • set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am – except during certain celebrations
  • use or buy fireworks unless they display the CE or UKCA marks. Fireworks marked as BS7114 must not be sold, supplied or given away

If found guilty by the courts, you could be fined or jailed.

When you can use fireworks:

  • until midnight on Bonfire Night
  • until 1am on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year.

Dealing with a noise nuisance

Firework legislation

If you think a shop is unregistered, or selling fireworks when they shouldn’t, contact your council’s Trading Standards Officer. Your council will also have a list of registered sellers.

Find your local Trading Standards office

  • only one person should be responsible for letting off fireworks
  • don’t drink alcohol if you’re setting off fireworks
  • light them at arm’s length, using a taper
  • make sure everyone stands well back
  • never go back to a firework that has been lit – even if it hasn’t gone off it could still explode without warning.
  • supervise children with sparklers and never give them to a child under five
  • light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
  • put used sparklers, hot end down, into a bucket of sand or water.

It is against the law to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal. The penalty can be several months in jail, a hefty fine, or both.

Animal firework safety information from the RSPCA

Animal welfare and advice – including how to report animal cruelty

More useful links

Emergency medical services – where to go with serious illnesses or injuries

First aid guide – NHS Choices

Treating burns, scalds and stings

  • a metal box with a lid to store the fireworks – take them out one at a time
  • a bucket of water – to cool sparklers and put out any small fires
  • eye protection and gloves
  • a bucket of earth to stick fireworks in.

Other useful links!

Bonfires | First Aid | In an emergency 

Bio ethanol and gel fuel burners

Bio ethanol and gel fuel burners are used decoratively and as heating sources, both indoors and out. There are currently no European standards for these products, so safety advice should be strictly followed:

  • always follow manufacturers’ instructions and only use bio ethanol in fireboxes and containers designed for the product
  • bio ethanol is highly flammable and should be kept in tightly-closed containers, away from ignition sources
  • fireboxes and containers should always be placed on a stable surface, away from combustible materials
  • never add fuel to a burning fire, overfill a fuel container or fill up a firebox fuel container that’s still hot
  • keep children and pets away from fireboxes and fuel
  • regularly clean and check fuel containers for damage, never use a leaking one and always clean away any fuel spills with a damp cloth and dry completely
  • keep hands, hair and clothing well clear of any burning flames and fuel
  • always light bio ethanol fuel with an extended lighter or extra-long match, and never discard matches into the container.

Other useful links!

Bonfires | First Aid | In an emergency 

Sky lanterns

Sky lanterns are a beautiful sight, but the potential damage they can cause is significant.

They use the heat of a naked flame to float. They’re not only a fire hazard but a danger to livestock, agriculture, camping activities, thatched properties and hazardous material sites.

Whilst lighting and launch are mostly in the control of the user, the actual flight path and end destination are not. There’s no guarantee that the fuel cell will be completely out and cooled when the lantern eventually lands, and any contact with a flammable surface could result in a fire.

There is evidence of them causing fires, wasting police time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading aircraft and killing livestock.

West Midlands Fire Service doesn’t support the use of these devices and we urge members of the public and event organisers not to use them.

Other useful links!

Wildfires | Countryside safety | In an emergency