Covid 19 and bonfires

We have received a number of complaints about fires in the gardens during the lockdown period. Please see the advice below.

Burning rubbish/domestic waste.

Some people are disposing of black bin bag waste that should normally go in domestic bins by burning it. This is against the law and smoke from mixed waste produces harmful and unpleasant pollutants. We have been contacting those responsible and taking action against them where appropriate.

Burning garden waste

Whilst burning garden waste is not illegal our advice at this time is not to do it as the smoke from garden fires can cause problems for people with underlying lung health conditions such as asthma and COPD. Whilst we are in the lockdown period and people are at home please do not have fires.

Lancashire fire and rescue have also advised against fires at home during this period.

People with existing lung health conditions such as asthma or COPD are particularly worried so please be neighbourly and do not have a fire. This will help to avoid putting further pressure on our already stretched emergency services.

If you are concerned about nuisance bonfires or want further advice on the laws relating to burning then please get in touch:

If you feel a bonfire is an imminent risk to people or property then speak to the fire brigade. If it is an emergency call 999. Or if it is not an emergency call Blackburn fire station for advice on 01254 52111.

Report a problem with a bonfire (smoke pollution)

Celebrating Bonfire Night

Take a look at the Government’s community guide to organising bonfires and fireworks.

Commercial/trade waste bonfires

Please contact us if you are affected by smoke from a business burning waste.

See our leaflet (in the "Documents" area below) for further information on the laws that cover trade waste bonfires.

Garden/domestic bonfires

Each year the Council and the fire brigade receive many complaints about people having garden bonfires or disposing of waste at home by burning it. Many of the problems caused are completely avoidable.

Whilst having a garden bonfire is not necessarily against the law, if you are only burning garden material (e.g. branches and twigs), the smoke can be a nuisance to people. This is when the Council has a legal responsibility to ensure that this nuisance is stopped.

There are also other ways of disposal and we would urge you to consider the advice given that we provide before having a garden bonfire.

It is also important to remember to never dispose of your household waste by burning it in your garden (e.g. waste arising from DIY/building renovations or waste that would normally go into your bin). This can be against the law.

See our leaflet on domestic bonfires and smoke nuisance for more information.

Much of the borough is a smoke control area but this does not affect garden bonfires as it only relates to smoke from chimneys. Find out more information about smoke control areas.

Burning rubbish/garden bonfires

Fires pose a serious danger and can cause death, injury or damage to people’s property. Each year the Fire and Rescue Service attends many incidents caused by deliberate fires that get out of control.

Smoke creates pollution - the burning of waste materials like plastic, rubber or painted wood, damages our health. The fumes are particularly harmful to children, elderly and people with breathing problems (such as asthma or bronchitis).

We are all responsible for the air we breathe and having a fire when it is not necessary makes air quality worse.

Smoke spoils people’s lives - preventing neighbours from enjoying their gardens, hanging washing out or opening their windows.

Domestic bonfires and the law

There are a number of laws that may cover garden fires depending on what is being burnt and the effect the smoke has:

Smoke Nuisance (Environmental Protection Act 1990)
If smoke, smell or ash causes a recurring or major problem in a neighbouring property or garden the Council may serve a legal notice. Failure to comply may result in prosecution.
Burning Household Waste (Environmental Protection Act 1990)
Burning domestic waste that would normally go into your burgundy or recycling bin e.g. plastics, furniture or rubber items, can be an offence and it may result in prosecution and a fine.
Cable Burning (Clean Air Act 1993)
The Council will prosecute anybody caught burning plastic covered cable with a view to recovering the metal. This will result in a fine of up to £5000.00.
Highways Act
Anyone lighting a fire could be fined if smoke drifts across a road and endangers traffic. This is enforced by the Police.

To stay on the right side of the law, think twice before burning and dispose of your waste by alternative means.

Having a garden bonfire

  • You may be able to burn garden waste like twigs or hedge clippings without causing a nuisance if your fire is small and they are infrequent e.g. once or twice a year.
  • We would always recommend that you consider other ways of disposal before you burn.
  • Avoid burning on muggy days or if the wind is likely to blow smoke towards your neighbours. If the Fire and Rescue Service are called out, they may extinguish the fire if it poses a danger.
  • Letting your neighbours know you are planning on having a garden bonfire is sensible. Don’t start a fire if your neighbours have their washing on the line or their windows wide open.
  • If you are in a heavily residential area and you have a lot of waste that you want to burn in all likelihood you need to find an alternative way of disposing of the waste.

Other ways of disposal

There are several other ways of disposing of garden waste without burning it.

Domestic material will be accepted for free at the household waste recycling centres in Blackburn and Darwen. Please contact them in advance if you want to arrive in a van as you will need a permit.

In addition, some material can be composted at home or placed in your brown bin for collection fortnightly, if you are part of our green waste collection scheme.

Using a chiminea or firepit

If you have a chiminea or fire pit please make sure that you use an appropriate fuel; such as clean and untreated wood, smokeless fuel or charcoal. Don’t burn waste.

Please remember that the frequent use of a chiminea or a fire pit is more likely to be a smoke nuisance whilst occasional reasonable use is unlikely to cause neighbours any major problems.

If you want to have a roaring, smoking fire outside three nights a week then this is likely to give rise to nuisance to neighbours.

Be a considerate neighbour and think about the likely impact on people around you.

Top tips

  1. If you have too much waste, or it’s too big for your bin, take it to the household waste disposal and recycling centres for free. You’ll need a permit if you have a van.
  2. The Council will collect and dispose of most bulky household waste (e.g. furniture) or other items from your home for a small fee.
  3. Recycle or compost garden waste as it is a more environmentally friendly means of disposal.
  4. If your neighbour is having a fire that is causing a problem consider talking to them - they may be unaware of the problem
  5. If you’re planning to have a fire:
    • ask your neighbours beforehand, especially if their washing is out or they’re enjoying their gardens
    • set the fire well away from property, overhanging trees, cables and combustible materials
    • don’t use petrol, paraffin or white spirit to start a fire
    • do not burn aerosol cans, tins of paint or bottles – they can explode and injure bystanders
    • don’t burn rubber or plastic, foam or paint, and don’t burn your general household waste
    • shred confidential documents -don’t burn them
    • put the fire out if smoke or debris is blown onto neighbouring premises - keep a bucket of water / sand or a hose nearby in case of emergencies
    • avoid burning at weekends and bank holidays when people are trying to enjoy their gardens.
    • never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder.