Council and fire service urge residents to avoid bonfires

Swindon Borough Council and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service are urging residents to avoid lighting bonfires during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published: Thursday, 9th April 2020

With some residents taking to burning their waste, the authorities are calling for residents to keep hold of their waste and not burn it to protect people’s health and avoid placing unnecessary pressure on emergency services.

Bonfires can cause many issues for people, especially those who may have breathing difficulties, which is a common symptom of COVID-19.

Although bonfires are not illegal, it is an offence to burn materials including household waste, DIY waste, plastics and treated wood. Many of these materials can produce toxic smoke.

During this period the Council will be investigating reports of people lighting nuisance bonfires and will prosecute if necessary. This action, it is hoped, will deter people from lighting bonfires and help protect vulnerable residents who may be affected by bonfire smoke.

The fire service has also seen recent incidents of fire crews being called out to attend out-of-control bonfires, which have caused damage to properties. Attending these incidents wastes the time of key frontline workers during this critical period and potentially exposes them to coronavirus.

The Council is urging residents to temporarily store any excess waste until the government restrictions are lifted and they can either take it to the Household Waste Recycling Centre or use a licensed waste carrier.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “Please be considerate of the people who live nearby. By lighting bonfires we can unintentionally cause a lot of upset and distress, not just to our immediate neighbours who might be enjoying their gardens during this very difficult time, but across a wider area where we live.

“The smoke can also cause problems for anyone who has breathing difficulties, including anyone suffering from COVID-19. And many people need to keep a window open so they have a connection with the world outside their home.

“Our Environmental Health officers are proactively investigating reports of bonfires which may result in enforcement. So, please avoid burning anything during this period. Please keep hold of any waste until the tip reopens and you can take it there to be recycled. If you would like advice on how best to deal with additional waste or anyone who has concerns about bonfires, please visit the Council’s website or, if you don’t have internet access, please call us.”

Group Manager Glyn Moody, from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Wherever possible, we would prefer people not to have bonfires at this time. We do fully appreciate that it’s the ideal time to get out in the garden, but bonfires can get out of control very easily, which pulls our crews from other vital work in the community and puts firefighters at risk of exposing themselves to coronavirus. If you must have a bonfire, please site it well away from buildings, fences, trees and garden structures, and stay in attendance at all times with a garden hose to hand.”

Residents can find out more information about how to reduce their waste and more advice around bonfires by visiting the council website at

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