How to run a firework display or bonfire safely

Young boy out of focus holding sparkler

How to run a firework display or bonfire safely - October 24, 2018

  • Posted by Christine Jones in Risk guidance
  • October 24, 2018
  • No Comments

Firework displays and bonfires with crowds of people can result in personal injury or property damage. Run your event carefully and injuries can be avoided, helping everyone to have an enjoyable evening.

When planning your event

  • Inform your local Fire Brigade, Police, First Aid Association and Local Authority (you may need a licence)
  • Choose a suitable and level site well away from all hazards - buildings, trees, overhead electricity and telephone cables
  • The site should have as many entrances and exits as possible - kept clear of any obstructions
  • Car parking areas should be sited well away from the firework display area and dropping zone. Signpost them clearly and keep vehicular entrances away from pedestrian access
  • Entrances and exits will need to be well lit and clearly signposted
  • Ensure spectators will be kept at a safe distance – a minimum of 25m and preferably 50m
  • You will need fire fighting equipment, such as extinguishers, buckets of water and sand available close by
  • Arrange adequate stewards – at least one steward for every 250 spectators. Stewards should be easy to identify, trained of what to do in an emergency and have practiced these drills
  • Make sure you have adequate electric torches available for the stewards
  • You should have a public address system – a loud hailer being the bare minimum
  • Qualified First Aiders with suitable equipment should attend all organised bonfires and firework displays
  • Carry out a simple risk assessment – look at the hazards and assess the risks
  • If you have an agreement to hold an event on someone else’s land, ensure that public liability insurance arrangements are in place
  • Don’t forget to tell us about it – especially if on Local Authority or private land!

Firework displays

  • The display area should be at least 50m x 50m and an additional dropping zone of 100m x 50m for spent fireworks
  • Remember to take wind direction into account – and this may vary on the night
  • A rope or a strong barrier should be used to clearly identify the display area
  • Do not allow any spectators to enter the site with their own fireworks (even sparklers) and clearly display signs to this effect at each entrance
  • If possible your display should be organised and operated by the manufacturer of the fireworks or a professional operator
  • Alternatively a responsible adult from the organising committee should be given sole control of storage and lighting of fireworks
  • Try to recruit at least one person with previous experience of firework displays
  • Only use fireworks which comply with the appropriate British Standard. They must be marked ‘Complies with BS 7114 Part 2 1988’
  • Fireworks should be stored in a metal container and removed one at a time with the lid replaced each time
  • Fireworks should only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions – a copy should be available
  • Fireworks which fail to ignite should be left for at least 30 minutes before you consider approaching them. Do not return them to the metal container and do not attempt to relight them


  • The bonfire should be under the control of a responsible adult, and one person should be in charge of all safety arrangements
  • Keep the bonfire well away from any firework display
  • Dangerous rubbish, such as foam-filled furniture, aerosols, tins of paint and bottles should not be burned
  • The bonfire should be stable and checked to ensure that it will not fall to one side
  • Paraffin, petrol or solvents should not be used to light the fire; use firelighters instead
  • Bonfires should be kept to a manageable size and additional materials to be burnt kept at a safe distance
  • Water should be poured on the embers of the fire and the site should not be left until the bonfire is out and safe

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