Bonfires more than double and deliberate fires on the rise

Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) is calling on residents to avoid having bonfires and controlled burns after it saw a large spike in May.

The warm weather and lockdown led to an increase from just 62 in April 2019 to 133 in April 2020 across the service area, more than doubling the number of incidents.

The trend continued into May, with 96 incidents this year compared to just 45 last year.

This number of bonfires puts unnecessary pressure on emergency services which are already stretched during the on-going pandemic.

Along with bonfires, AF&RS has also seen an increase in deliberate outdoor fires, mainly started from loose refuse and garden waste.

The Service is calling on communities to keep refuse areas tidy to avoid becoming a target for this type of fire.

Within the service area, Bristol had by far the highest number in May, with 51 incidents. South Glos, North Somerset and BANES had 23, 22 and 15 respectively.

Both types of fire put a huge pressure on emergency crews, potentially delaying those who need it from receiving help.

It also impacts the 999 emergency number which serves the police, fire and ambulance.

Simon Shilton, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for AF&RS, said: “The recent prolonged dry weather has made it very easy for fires to spread outdoors.

“These fires can be in areas where access is extremely difficult and water supply is limited.

“If the fire gets out of control, it places tremendous pressure on our resources, with firefighters tied up for a considerable length of time trying to bring them under control.

“These fires can put homes, livestock and the lives of crews and residents at risk”

If you do continue to have a bonfire, please follow these safety tips:

Advise your neighbours so they don’t call 999.

  • Where possible always use a garden incinerator bin as this will help keep the fire contained and manageable.
  • Build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees.
  • Don’t use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going. It could get out of control and injure you or loved ones.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby, in case of an emergency.
  • Don’t leave bonfires unattended.
  • Keep children and pets away from the bonfire.
  • Don’t burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint. They may produce toxic fumes or explode.
  • Do not build a bonfire on the beach or any other wild area.
  • Ensure the bonfire is out completely before leaving the area.

If you see an out of control fire, leave the area immediately and call 999.