A barbecue 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.

General barbecue safety:

  • 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

Gas barbecues:

  • 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.

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 please click here.


Bio ethanol and gel fuel burners are becoming increasingly popular and are used as decorative items and as heating sources both indoors and outdoors. There are currently no European standards for these products and so it is essential that safety advice is strictly followed.

Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions and only use Bio-Ethanol fuel in fireboxes and containers designed for the product.

Bio–Ethanol fuel is highly flammable and should be kept in containers tightly closed and away from any ignition sources.

Fireboxes and containers should always be placed on a stable surface and away from combustible materials.

Never add fuel to a burning fire or overfill a fuel container and never fill up a firebox fuel container that is still hot.

Keep children and pets away from fireboxes and fuel.

Regularly clean and check fuel containers for damage and never use a leaking one and always clean away any fuel spills with a damp cloth and dry completely.

Keep your 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 – never discard matches into the container.

Sky Lanterns

Whilst sky lanterns are a popular and beautiful sight, 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 also 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

A sky lantern floats towards the sky
Fireworks exploding in the sky


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

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

We recommend that people attend professionally organised fireworks events but, if you do have your own fireworks party, follow these safety tips:

  • don’t buy fireworks from anywhere dodgy, like a van or a temporary, unlicensed market stall
  • only buy fireworks marked BS 7114 or with a CE mark – this shows that the firework meets British or European safety standards (a reputable shop will know this)
  • follow the instructions on each firework – read them in daylight or by torchlight, never by a naked flame
  • make suitable supports and launchers if you’re setting off Catherine wheels or rockets.

This leaflet will help you plan a successful event.

Things you will need on the night:

  • a closed metal box 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.

Lighting fireworks:

  • only one person should be responsible for letting off fireworks
  • don’t drink alcohol if you’re setting off fireworks
  • light fireworks 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.

Sparklers are fun, but always:

  • 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.

Other tips:

  • keep pets indoors – most animals 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

Fireworks and the law

There are laws about when fireworks can be sold, and to who – as well as the times fireworks can be set off.

If you’re under 18 you can’t:

  • buy the types of fireworks which can be sold only to adults
  • have fireworks in public places.

If you do, the police can give you an on-the-spot fine.

It is against the law to:

  • set off or throw fireworks in the street or other public place
  • set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am – except during certain celebrations.

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

You can let off 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

Fireworks for private use, and from a registered seller, can only be sold:

  • 15 October to 10 November – around Bonfire Night
  • 26 December to 31 December – for New Year’s Eve
  • three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year.

For the rest of the year, you will only be able to buy fireworks from shops that are licensed to supply them.

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

Animals and pets

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