By Christabel - posted on May 18, 2021


Thinking of having a bonfire? Can you avoid burning, burn cleaner, burn safely? 

Bonfires can cause harmful particulate air pollution at home and in your neighbourhood. This negatively impacts the health of your family and community, affecting your heart and lungs. 

Instead of having a bonfire… 

Compost garden waste at home or through council garden waste collections. Click on your local authority for more information about their garden waste collections: Eastleigh Borough Council,  New Forest District CouncilSouthampton City Council and Winchester City Council

Larger sticks and logs can be left in wood piles for wildlife. These piles provide a food source and shelter for insects (and those that eat them) and add nutrients to the soil as the matter decays.  Get inspired by the Wildlife Trust, RSPB and RHS.

Dispose of household waste safely through council general and bulky waste collections, waste and recycling centres and recycling or donating where possible. Click on your local authority for more information about their waste and recycling options: Eastleigh Borough Council, New Forest District Council , Southampton City Council  and Winchester City Council.

Tips on composting from the Eden Project.

If you need to have a bonfire… 

Only burn dry, untreated wood and not rubber tyres, plastics or wood with varnish or paint. Burn dry, untreated wood as hot as possible to reduce smoke. Don’t burn household or wet garden waste, dispose of it safely. Putting rubber, plastics or treated wood, such as pallets, fence panels, laminate, cabinets or furniture on your bonfire can cause harmful fumes. Don’t use flammable liquids like paraffin or petrol to light a fire, or put aerosols, canisters or anything containing foam or paint on a bonfire, as it may get out of control or explode. 

Consider your neighbours, community and wildlife before building and lighting a fire. Build a bonfire away from houses, sheds, fences or hedges, trees and overhead cables, to reduce the risk of fire spreading or smoke causing a nuisance to others. Check your bonfire thoroughly before lighting, for small animals like hedgehogs and mice, and make sure your bonfire is away from trees and hedges where wildlife may be sheltering. 

Be aware of the impacts of air pollution – don’t allow fires to smoulder or produce a lot of dark smoke, and avoid days with poor air quality or unsuitable weather conditions. Check air pollution levels before burning, using DEFRA-Air forecasts or the AirVisual app, to avoid making air quality worse. Unsuitable weather conditions could include wet weather when a fire won’t burn as hot and is more likely to smoulder and produce dark smoke, or windy days when the smoke may be more likely to blow towards neighbours or drift across a road. Be aware of regulations on nuisance bonfires  and smoke becoming a danger to traffic, which could lead to a fine. 

Follow fire safety advice – don’t leave a fire unattended, keep water nearby and children and pets away. Follow Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service safety advice on bonfiresBBQs and preventing wild fires. Keep a bucket of water or garden hose nearby in case of emergencies. Once a bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water to stop it from reigniting. 

For more information and advice on wood burning, see our webpage

Smoke complaints 

If you have concerns regarding smoke from a neighbour’s bonfire, it is best to discuss this directly with them as they may not be aware that there is a problem and this often resolves the majority of complaints. If this is not possible or successful, your council can investigate complaints of smoke and fumes that could be a ‘statutory nuisance’.  

A statutory nuisance is a specific legal term and usually means frequent and unreasonable amount of smoke that is interfering with someone else’s life and is a risk to health. For this reason a ‘one-off’ incident is unlikely to be investigated. If a statutory nuisance is identified, the council can issue an ‘abatement notice’ to whoever is responsible to stop or reduce the smoke, which can lead to a fine if those rules are not followed. 

If the smoke is drifting across a road and becoming a danger to traffic, please contact the police. If you believe a fire is dangerous, please call the fire service. If you have a complaint about nuisance smoke or bonfires, please contact your local council: Eastleigh Borough CouncilNew Forest District Council, Southampton City Council and Winchester City Council