Be Safe on Bonfire Night
Bonfire Night is a special holiday in the UK celebrating the commemoration of the failed attempt on King James’ life by, infamous plotter, Guy Fawkes. The tradition, steeped in history, is celebrated by thousands of firework displays up and down the country, in both small-scale back garden affairs and elaborate displays in front of packed crowds.
Whether you are participating at a high or low key event, it is paramount that all those involved are both aware of the risks that fireworks and bonfires pose, as well as taking the necessary steps to avoid accidents and potential serious injuries. In the last few years nearly 1,000 injuries have been attributed to fireworks, with almost half of them being children.
Beware the Risks
Bonfire night poses a selection of potential injury threats when fireworks and bonfires are treated irresponsibly. They can also cause further problems if the same risks are presented to children, who may be unaware of the full potential for danger.
Our safety tips are designed to keep you aware but also able to ensure that you can enjoy what can be one of the most mesmerising nights of the year. With a little care and attention, Bonfire Night can go off with a bang and without a hitch.
To begin we touch on possibly the most common injury to children on Bonfire Night, using sparklers. These dazzling tools can provide a few moments of joy for many children by making patterns, writing their name or just waving them in the air. With a burning temperature of 2,000 degrees Celsius however, which is over 15 times the boiling point of water, third degree burns are not uncommon for those exposed to them.
The third degree is one of the most severe burns as it singes not only the epidermis but goes as deep as the dermis and the nerve endings in skin, often causing discolouration, scarring, blistering and disfigurement depending on where it takes place.
Sparklers should always be stored in a cool, dry box, only to be taken out one at a time for lighting. Always use gloves to avoid burning; this counts for both the lighter and the user. With that said, any children under the age of five are best left watching, rather than holding them themselves. Have a cold water bucket on hand for when the sparkler is spent (a used sparkler can still run hot for a long time following burnout). Cold water is the best way to ensure it cools, keeping it away from any young children who otherwise may be tempted to pick up a hot spent sparkler left on the floor.
Sparklers possibly pose the biggest threat on Bonfire Night, given the widespread use and proximity to them. It doesn’t get any closer than holding the mini firework in your hand, so the awareness of the threat they pose needs to be at the front of the mind.
Sparkler Safety with Fireman Sam
Displays vary from a humble value pack bought at the local supermarket for the back garden, to the expansive public displays like the Lord Mayor’s show in London or the most popular in the UK, Lewes Firework Display, which is attended by over 30 Bonfire groups.
Fireworks offer the best visuals, lighting up the sky in a multitude of colours and patterns. While they provide the biggest spectacle of the evening, they must be managed with care as a mishandled firework can easily become a painful and dangerous mistake.
Our advice on firework safety would be to take the safest option and take the family to a public display. Displays are a managed event and will have all the relevant health & safety safeguards required to ensure all have a safe but mesmerising time.
An organised event near you is likely to have the most expansive display around and likely to beat out anything that can be bought from a local supermarket.
If you do decide you’d like to put on a small display at home, you may find that taking time to properly set up during the day can assist the smooth running of your display and maximise safety. Read the instructions on the fireworks during the day when it’s light and lay them out ready for you to set off later that evening. If you want a seamless display, you can purchase single fuse displays that only require lighting once, removing the need to walk over and light individually (reducing risk).
If you are setting up at home, ensure your display area is clear of trees, hedges, bushes, sheds and other structures blocking the firework’s path. If you have a lot of grass near the display area we would recommend placing each firework in a bucket of soft earth, lighting them with a taper to keep any early sparks away from flammable surfaces.
When the display starts in full, keep everyone watching away from the firework area and have a first aid kit on hand as a safeguard. If you have friends or family over, who are drinking alcohol, ensure they do not try and get involved in the display. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix!
The main attraction and the annual events namesake, bonfires, are seen the length and breadth of the country. Bonfires can be made from the old shed in a back garden, good burning wood brought in for the community firework display and all manner of weird and wonderful materials. Each bonfire has its own story.
If you have made a bonfire at home and have invited visitors around for the evening, you’ll need to be aware of the threat of an open fire and manage it accordingly. You may have an effigy of Guy Fawkes sat atop your bonfire, whether you do or don’t, you’ll need to be aware of everything thrown on your bonfire to control the blaze, including what Guy is wearing.
For the base of a bonfire, it’s wise to use simple, good burning materials like cuttings of wood to build up the structure. The best materials for kindling (used to light the fire) include:
- Dead plants and grasses
- Birch bark
- Wood shavings
- Dry leaves
For the actual structure itself, it is best to use sturdy objects such as dry wood blocks, twigs and cardboard. Build up from a large base into a peak. To stop the fire spreading if it is on grass, place stones and rocks around the outer edge to contain the fire.
There should never be any highly flammable materials or liquids on the fire, as even the smallest amount can cause the fire to unexpectedly erupt, causing flames to shoot out from the main fire. Aerosols, alcohol, petrol and paints are all dangerous when thrown onto a fire given their highly reactive nature.
As with firework displays, all attendees should be placed well back in case the fire spits and should definitely be kept further away if consuming alcohol. Fireworks and alcohol are a bad mix, so is fire and alcohol.
Be Safe & Enjoy!
It can be easy to get sucked into the dangers of bonfire night, with the possibility of being burned by bonfires, fireworks and sparklers. It’s even easier if you are a parent to worry about your child, given the extensive campaigns promoting fire safety to children. The reality, however, is that if you are conscientious about the dangers and act in a level headed manner throughout the evening, you are more likely to have a fantastic time watching the flames spur up into the night, as the sky is blanketed by flashes and explosions.
Sincere Law do have the ability to help if you suffer as a result of somebody else’s negligent actions with fire or fireworks. We are open from 8am – 9pm daily and have a team of dedicated specialists to help you through a serious injury claim. To get in touch should you suffer the worst you can call on 0800 092 2896 or you can fill in our contact form here to get in touch. We do hope however that you, your family and friends have a safe, enjoyable bonfire night filled with cheer and spectacle.