Council urges residents to take care when burning garden waste and bonfires


CUMBERLAND Council, in conjunction with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, is urging residents to take care when burning garden waste and bonfires.

As bonfire night draws closer, and people look to burn foliage as it withers, residents are reminded to take the following precautions.

  • Never leave an outdoor fire unattended.
  • Warn your neighbours beforehand so they can make necessary preparations.
  • Never use oil, petrol, or methylated spirits to light a fire.
  • Do not start fires if it is windy, or in damp weather when the smoke hangs in the air.
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam, or paint.
  • Make sure the size of the fire is small and manageable, do it in stages or use a garden incinerator if needed.
  • Avoid burning green or damp materials as they will create lots of smoke.
  • Make sure the fire is in a clear area and away from trees, fences, buildings, and roads.
  • Check there are no cables (telephone wires etc) above the fire.
  • Be prepared to extinguish the fire at any time.
  • Make sure the fire is extinguished and not smouldering when you leave it.
  • Hold your bonfire on private land with the owner’s permission.

Residents are reminded that waste should be composted or recycled when possible. Most garden and vegetable kitchen waste can be composted. However, meat or other products of animal origin should not be composted.

Garden waste can also be disposed of at some Household Waste Recycling Centres. Find out what you can dispose of at

Cllr Bob Kelly, Executive Member for Licensing and Regulatory Services, said: “Our residents need to be very careful when burning items in their gardens or allotments. Not just for the obvious safety reasons, but to make sure they stay on the right side of the law.

“If smoke is drifting across neighbouring properties and causing a problem, this can be classed as a statutory nuisance. It is also an offence for smoke from a bonfire to drift onto a public highway or if a bonfire emits dark smoke.  

“If a fire becomes unmanageable, this also puts pressure on our already stretched emergency services. We’re urging people to take care when burning during the autumn as it’s a popular time for getting rid of garden waste and building bonfires to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night.”

Andrew Lowes, Station Manager for Prevention in Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service would ask that you don’t have a bonfire and instead go to an organised event; this is much safer and often much more enjoyable.

“Use a search engine, social media, or the local media to look for organised events near you.

“If you must have a bonfire, please follow the advice as above.

“Once the bonfire is lit, make sure you do not leave it unattended, and keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby. Keep children and pets away from the bonfire, and do not throw any fireworks into it.

“Additionally, do not burn aerosols, tyres, canisters, or anything containing foam or paint; this could produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode, causing injury.

“Once the bonfire has died down, pour water on the embers to stop it reigniting and ensure it is completely extinguished.”

If a fire looks out of control call 999. If you believe a fire is causing a statutory nuisance, email or call 0300 373 3730.