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Firework safety

Hundreds of people across Britain are injured in incidents involving fireworks each year and more than half of those injured are children. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is dedicated to ensuring that fireworks are always stored, sold and used in a safe and responsible way, and we work with partner agencies across the county in preparation for major events such as Guy Fawkes Night, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year.

Fireworks are safe if you use them properly. If you're putting on a home display, you should follow some simple steps to make sure that everyone has a good time without getting hurt.

Be safe not sorry

Fireworks, be safe not sorry. Always follow the Code.

Be safe not sorry with fireworks

Where to buy

Don't cut corners just to save a few quid. Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to British Standards. This means that they should have BS 7114 written on the box. Sometimes shops open up for a short time before Bonfire Night but these may not be the best places to buy fireworks from. Staff in these shops might not be very knowledgeable about using fireworks safely and their fireworks might not meet British Standards. Whatever you do, don't buy fireworks from anywhere you're not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall.

What to buy

There are different categories of fireworks. Members of the public can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under Categories 1 to 3. These are fireworks that you can use indoors, in your garden or at a display. Always read the packet carefully and make sure that the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.

Professional fireworks

Some fireworks can only be bought and used by firework professionals. These include: air bombs; aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar; all bangers; mini rockets; fireworks with erratic flight; some Category 2 and 3 fireworks which exceed certain size limits; and all Category 4 fireworks.

Setting them off

A simple sparkler reaches a temperature of up to 2,000°C - over 15 times the boiling point of water. A rocket can travel up to 150 miles per hour. In fact, all kinds of fireworks need handling with extreme care!

Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. If that's you, then make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Read the instructions in daylight and don't drink any alcohol until they've all been discharged.

On the night, you will need...

  • a torch
  • a bucket of water
  • eye protection and gloves
  • a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in
  • suitable supports and launchers if you're setting off catherine wheels or rockets.

A leaflet on "Fire Safety when celebrating" is available to download here PDF 387Kb. This leaflet covers other Fire Safety advice and information that you may find helpful when celebrating.


The firework code

Before they explode, read the Code!

bonfire (15kb)

Kids - visit KidZone to make a Firework Code poster

  • Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
  • Dispose of sparklers in a bucket of water as soon as they are finished.
  • Never give sparklers to a child under five.
  • Ensure that all children with fireworks are well supervised.
  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114.
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box or tin. Use them one at a time, replacing the lid immediately.
  • Follow the instructions on each firework, using a torch or hand lamp. Never use a naked flame.
  • Light fireworks at arm's length using a taper.
  • Do not drink alcohol if setting off fireworks.
  • Stand well back.         
  • Never go back to a lit firework, even if it hasn't gone off, it could still explode.
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never throw fireworks.
  • Keep pets indoors Fireworks and Pets - Blue Cross leaflet PDF 88Kb (88kb), leave a light and a radio on or get someone to stay with them.

Firework safety code in English, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Traditional and Simplified Chinese PDF 634Kb


Fireworks - keep kids safe

Children - including babies and toddlers - suffer over half of all firework injuries and many of these are babies and toddlers. Children's scars may heal but the trauma for them and their parents can last for years.

We want children to enjoy fireworks but they need to know that they can be dangerous if they are not used properly.

Children under five

  • Never give sparklers to under fives.
  • Never hold a baby or child if you have a sparkler in your hand.
  • Always supervise young children closely.

All children

  • Supervise all children carefully and keep them well back from the bonfire and fireworks.
  • Show older children how to hold sparklers - away from their body and at arm's length - and teach them not to wave them at other people or run while holding them.
  • Avoid dressing children in loose or flowing clothes that could catch alight easily, and give children gloves to wear when holding sparklers.
  • Steer clear of alcohol if you're running a display or looking after kids.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) and the Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) work together to try and reduce the number of injuries to children, particularly those under five, caused by fireworks. Go to the CAPT website at for more information on keeping children safe from fireworks and other accidents.

Sparkle safely

Be safe not sorry with fireworks

Did you know that sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil? Sparklers are not toys and should never be given to a child under five.

  • Store sparklers and other fireworks in a closed box in a cool, dry place.
  • Always light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
  • Never hold a baby or child if you have a sparkler in your hand.
  • Plunge finished sparklers hot end down into a bucket of water as soon as they have burnt out.
  • Remember, sparklers can stay hot for a long time.
  • Don't take sparklers to public displays. It will be too crowded to use them safely.

In an emergency

  • Cool the burn or scald with cold water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Cut around material sticking to the skin - don't pull it off.
  • Don't touch the burn or burst any blisters.
  • Cover the burn with clean, non-fluffy material - clingfilm is ideal - to prevent infection.
  • If clothing catches fire, get the person to stop, drop to the floor and roll them in heavy material like a curtain.
  • Get advice from your doctor or accident and emergency department at your local hospital.


Take care with bonfires

When celebrating Bonfire Night, remember to be careful with bonfires as well as fireworks. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s advice is to attend an organised bonfire if possible.

It is much better to manage without a bonfire. But if you insist, make sure it is well away from your house and any trees, hedges, fences or sheds.

Private bonfires

  • Bonfires should be built at least 18 metres from things such as buildings, trees and fences.
  • They should be no more than 3 metres high for private events and should not be built under overhead cables.
  • Do not use petrol or any other flammable liquid to start a bonfire.
  • Always check inside the bonfire for animals and children who could be using them as a den.
  • Think about fire safety and also the pollution bonfires can create.

Organised bonfires and firework displays

  • Running a display takes a lot of work, so try to share the load by planning ahead.
  • Set up a committee whose members can each take responsibility for a particular task, including one person to be in charge of all safety arrangements.
  • Arrange for fire extinguishers, buckets of water, buckets of sand and metal litter bins to be available on the night.
  • Check that plenty of electric torches will be available on the night, with full batteries.
  • Publicise the fact that spectators are not allowed to bring their own fireworks, including sparklers.
  • Draw up a detailed checklist of tasks and indicate who is to be responsible for each one.
  • Check whether you are adequately insured to cover any firework-related injuries to those present at the display.
  • Think about fire safety and also the pollution bonfires can create.

General bonfire safety

  • Bonfires must be built at least 10m downwind from vegetation, tents and caravans
  • Build your bonfire well away from hedges, fences, sheds or buildings
  • Clear a patch of bare earth to build the fire on
  • Don't site it too near your display or firework storage area and don't site it anywhere near fences or trees.
  • Check immediately before lighting that there is no animal or a young child hidden inside.
  • Keep bonfires to a manageable size and evenly built so that they collapse inwards as they burn
  • Never leave a bonfire unattended
  • Never use petrol or paraffin on a fire
  • Do not put batteries, aerosols or other gas cylinders on the fire
  • Avoid having a bonfire in windy weather conditions
  • Keep children and pets well away from the area
  • Do not leave a bonfire unattended or leave it to smoulder - put it out
  • Only burn dry material
  • Remove any rubbish from your bonfire area in advance so nothing can be thrown onto the fire on the night.
  • If a bonfire does get out of control, do not attempt to tackle it yourself - call 999

Picking the right location

You should choose a large, clear and well-mown area free from obstructions, well away from any buildings, trees and hazards like overhead cables. There should be as many safe entrances and exits as possible, which must be away from the firing area and dropping zone. The firing area should be at least 50m x 20m and beyond this you will need a dropping zone for spent fireworks of 100m x 50m in the downwind direction.

With around 90% of our county being rural, the effects of fires in the countryside can be wide-ranging and very serious with large areas of the being affected. Large fires can draw on firefighting resources from across the county reducing the availability of resources for property fires, road traffic accidents and other life threatening incidents. Wildlife is particularly vulnerable to the effects of fire and smoke and natural habitats that have taken years to become established can be devastated in a matter of hours. Crops on farmland can be quickly destroyed and affect associated farm buildings. Other environmental impacts include large volumes of smoke, polluting the atmosphere and the disruption of natural water supplies and associated plant or pond life when water is taken for firefighting.

Crowd control

Spectators should be kept back on the opposite side to the dropping zone at least 25m from the firing area, so proper crowd control is essential and needs good planning.

  • Arrange for some stewards.
  • Take great care at all times.
  • Plan your display in advance.
  • Do not allow smoking.
  • Before lighting any firework, read the instructions on it carefully by torchlight.
  • Make sure that the wind blows away from spectators.
  • The display should be angled away from spectators.
  • Never use matches or lighters for lighting fire works at a display.
  • A sudden change of wind could cause aerial fireworks to fall dangerously among spectators and in very windy weather you should consider putting off the display altogether, however disappointing that might be.

Protect your animals from fireworks

Cat and dog

Although fireworks are fun for us, they are not fun for animals. Most animals get very scared by the lights and noise, so you should take precautions to protect your pets during the times of the year when fireworks are likely to be set off.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's specialst Animal Rescue team says that the best thing you can do is to keep your pets indoors. This includes bringing in pets that are normally kept outside, such as rabbits or guinea pigs. Close all of your windows and doors and try to drown out the noise as much as possible. And make sure that cats and dogs have name tags on them in case the noise scares them and they run off.

Firework curfew

Recent changes to the law mean that fireworks can't be set off between 11 pm and 7 am (apart from on 5 November, New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali, when the curfew ends at 1 am). Hopefully this curfew will keep to a minimum the times when animals and people are disburbed by fireworks.

More information

The animal charity Blue Cross has published a leaflet with more detailed advice on keeping your pets safe from fireworks. Download the Blue Cross leaflet - keeping your pets safe from fireworks. PDF 88Kb

(Information from the website of the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform).


Did you know?

  • You can't set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am except for on 5 November when you can set them off until midnight and New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali when they can be set off until 1am.
  • You must be over 18 to buy fireworks, except for caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents and throw downs where the legal age of purchase is 16.
  • It is an offence to throw or set off fireworks in a street or public place and it is also illegal for anyone under 18 to possess fireworks in public.
  • It is an offence for people who aren't firework professionals to buy and possess category 4 fireworks. These are only to be used at public displays by firework professionals.

The law

New legislation has been introduced to help to make fireworks safer to use and to tackle their deliberate misuse. It affects how fireworks are imported, sold and used, and places restrictions on possession. It means that fireworks will be safer, less noisy and can only be let off at certain times. It also means that those misusing them to either damage property or injure will be able to be dealt with by the relevant authorities. As a consumer, you along with retailers, have new responsibilities.

Legislation and you

Fireworks will only be widely available during the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night and a few days before New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year. For the rest of the year, you will only be able to buy fireworks from shops that are licensed to supply them.


It is an offence under section 80 of the Explosives Act 1875 to throw or set off fireworks in any highway, street, thoroughfare or public place. The power to enforce this section of the Act rests with the police. Anyone found guilty is liable to pay a fine of up to £5,000. Penalty notices for disorder (on-the-spot fines) can also be issued for this offence, attracting the upper tier fine of £80.

In Regulations made under the Fireworks Act 2003, it is also an offence for the under 18s to possess fireworks in a public place and for anyone to let fireworks off during night hours (11pm to 7am). As from 11 October 2004, police also have the power to issue penalty notices for disorder for these offences. Again, the offence attracts the upper tier fine of £80.

Under section 1 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animals. The penalty on conviction is a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months imprisonment, or both. Enforcement of this section of the Act rests with Trading Standards, the Police or the RSPCA as appropriate.

Firework Legislation for retailers

The law

New legislation has been introduced to help to make fireworks safer to use and to tackle their deliberate misuse. It affects how fireworks are imported, sold and used, and places restrictions on possession. It means that fireworks will be safer, less noisy and can only be let off at certain times. It also means that those misusing them to either damage property or injure will be able to be dealt with by the relevant authorities. As a consumer, you along with retailers, have new responsibilities.

Legislation and retailers

As a retailer, you should be aware of your responsibilities and changes to legislation.

The changes to the law mean that...

  • Importers must supply information at the point of entry to ensure that fireworks are legally stored and distributed. This information should be given to Customs and Excise and will then be sent to the relevant authorities responsible for storage licences so they can check on deliveries (this regulation comes into force on 1 January 2005).
  • Licensing authorities can ask to see information relating to transactions of fireworks exceeding 50kg of net explosive content.
  • All fireworks being sold to the public must comply with the British Standard (BS 7114).
  • All fireworks not intended for supply to the general public (category 4) must indicate this by way of a mark.
  • All category 3 fireworks (display fireworks) must not exceed 120 decibels.
  • Selling Fireworks
  • You must register or obtain a licence to store fireworks.
  • You must store fireworks safely.
  • You must display a large notice reminding customers about the law with regard to underage sales and possession.
  • You must not sell fireworks to anyone who is under 18 - even if they appear to be older (it is recommended that proof of age is sought).
  • You must not sell caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents and throw downs to anyone who is under 16.
  • Boxes of fireworks must not be split and sold separately.
  • All fireworks for the public must comply with the British Standard (BS 7114).
  • If you don't comply with these rules you could be fined £5,000 or imprisoned for 6 months.

A document detailing everything retailers need to know about selling fireworks is also available on the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) website at

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) firework safety warning

You should be aware that the CAA has guidelines for organisers of major events using fireworks near airports. Further details are available from


Firework safety - other useful sites

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service does not own or take responsibility for the maintenance and content of the websites listed on this page.

  • UK Firework Safety Website (Firework industry site) - this site gives loads of good advice on firework safety, find out all the latest news.
  • DTI Firework Safety - this site incorporates all the information that you need to enjoy Fireworks safely. It includes schools information, private display safety and the firework safety code.

General Information

Be safe not sorry with fireworks

Information for Young People