As the days get shorter, dark autumn nights will be lit up with spectacular fireworks, starting with Diwali from 24 October and Bonfire Night on 5 November. While there are plenty of public fireworks displays, it’s great to have a family get-together in your own garden.
However, fireworks and bonfires can be dangerous - there were more than one hundred fireworks-related injuries last year. Below, we’ve brought together the best legal and safety advice so you can enjoy fireworks in the comfort of your own back garden.
- Fireworks and the law
- Looking out for animals
- Ear protection
- Bonfire safety tips
- Bonfire party kit
First of all, make sure you obey the law. In both England and Wales and Scotland, fireworks must not be set off between 11pm-7am, except on Diwali, Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve and the Chinese New Year, where the cutoff is either midnight or 1am. In Northern Ireland, make sure you have a fireworks licence, and if you want one in time for Diwali or Bonfire Night, make sure you get your application in as soon as you can.
It’s illegal to buy fireworks if you’re younger than 18, and you must not light them in public places.
Looking out for animals
Before you light your bonfire, make sure to check it for small mammals like hedgehogs, which will be looking for places to hibernate.
National Trust Luxury Pine Hedgehog House
Keep hedgehogs away from bonfires with this pine hedgehog house. It’s raised off the ground to keep hedgehogs dry and it has a tunnel entrance to keep out large predators like foxes. It’s also made of sustainable FSC-sourced wood.
Buy the National Trust Luxury Pine Hedgehog House from CJ Wildlife
Dogs are often anxious about the noise of fireworks, and there are lots of products on the market that claim to help calm them. Don’t be fooled by soundproofing for dog cages, as the low-frequency noise of fireworks is difficult to block out. The best way to help anxious dogs is to slowly acclimatise them by playing increasingly loud firework sounds in the weeks leading up to firework season, but this is obviously quite difficult and inconvenient to do.
You can also find anti-anxiety vests for dogs. While these are not entirely proven, anecdotally these are said to have helped lots of dogs to keep calm.
The Thundershirt is a weighted dog vest designed to help calm dogs by wrapping them in gentle, constant pressure. It comes in multiple sizes running from XXS to XXL to suit every breed.
Price: from £28
Snug Kids Ear Defenders
These kids’ ear defenders are great for firework displays at home and, being lightweight and foldable, they’re also handy when you’re on the go. With soft ear cups, they’re designed to be as comfortable as possible and they come in a whopping 22 colours and patterns, so there’s a design to suit every kid.
More like this
Buy Snug Kids Ear Defenders from Amazon
Lighting a bonfire
Bonfire safety tips
- Find a spot on a lawn well away from the house for your bonfire, several metres away from fences, outbuildings and overhanging foliage.
- Clear the grass of leaves as insects may by using them to shelter.
- If you’ve built up dry bonfire material for a few weeks, dismantle the pile to give insects and small mammals time to escape, and then pile it back up again in the final spot in a rough pyramid shape.
- Keep several large buckets of water or a connected garden hose on hand to extinguish any wayward flames.
- Light it from one side, to give any wildlife that wanders in time to escape from the other.
- Stand well back and enjoy.
- Do not light a bonfire in strong winds
- Never use flammable liquids - and make sure they are well away from the fire (for example in sheds)
- Keep children and pets at a suitable distance
- Make sure it's properly extinguished before you go to bed. Don't leave it unattended.
- Only use dry wood - wet wood creates much more smoke
- Avoid alcohol
This is a summary of the best bonfire advice. For a more comprehensive guide, take a look at the latest advice from your local fire and rescue service, such as the London Fire Brigade.
Log-Barn 90x 28cm Extra Long Matches
These super-sized matches give you plenty of distance from the fire.
Buy Log-Barn 90x 28cm Extra Long Matches from Amazon
Eco Blaze Natural Firelighters
Chemical firelighters can be incredibly toxic and give off noxious fumes. Instead, these are FSC-certified, wood-based firelighters only give off smoke. They’re quick to light and burn for eight minutes. While we haven’t formally tested these firelighters, we used them on a film shoot to light barbecues and pizza ovens, so we know they’re incredibly effective and safe to use.
Price: £7.99 for 50, £16.99 for 200
Buy Eco Blaze Natural Firelighters from Amazon
Logs Online Kiln Dried Hardwood Birch
If you don’t have any logs from the garden, these are great for a very small bonfire, your chimnea or a fire pit. They’re food-safe, so you can also use them in barbecues and pizza ovens. Because they’ve been dried, they’re ready to go straight away, and they come from FSC-certified sustainable woodlands.
Price: £26 for 20kg
Logs Online Kiln Dried Hardwood Birch from Amazon
As the night winds down, it’s crucial to have a bucket on hand to extinguish the fire and collect ashes and spent fireworks. This attractive contemporary bucket is made from coated steel with a smooth wooden handle, and is available in carbon black or forest green.
Buy the Fireside Bucket from Garden Trading
Bonfire party kit
If you haven’t got the space for a bonfire, a firepit is a great alternative. This simple square design will suit a range of styles and spaces, and it has handy log storage underneath.
Buy the Outdoor Fireplace from Vonhaus
Usboo Solar String Lights
If you’re decorating your space to host a bonfire, our tests of solar lights found that these cast soft light across the garden, ensuring spaces are well-lit without being overexposed. They held up well after months of testing, and have a handy on/off switch as well as eight lighting modes. That said, we found that, while they turned on every night, they could be a little slow to turn on after more overcast days.
Buy the Usboo Solar String Lights from Amazon
Ollny Christmas Fairy Lights Outdoor
While solar lights are great, in autumn and winter the short hours of daylight and overcast skies mean they can become less reliable. For guaranteed illumination, try these outdoor lights. They’re incredible value, with 20 metres of LED lights. They have multiple lighting modes and timers, so they turn off automatically, and they can also be operated with a remote, so you don’t have to stoop down to a plug to turn them on and off. They’re available in white, gold, and multicoloured.
Buy the Ollny Christmas Fairy Lights Outdoor from Amazon
Ivory Pop-Up Gazebo Set 2.5 x 2.5m
Keep everyone dry if it rains with this pop-up gazebo. It folds up and down for easy storage, and the transparent windows on the sides let in lots of light. The sides also roll up, offering plenty of ventilation in summer.
Buy the Ivory Pop-Up Gazebo Set 2.5 x 2.5m from Vonhaus