How to, and should you, have a Bonfire party in a small space?

There is something primaeval about fire - it calls to us from deep within; we have an ancient connection to it that the primitive part of our mind associates with safety, community and comfort.

Having a national day for fire is therefore a chance to reconnect to our very nature and we should grab that opportunity with both hands. If you live in a small space or are separated from the natural environment this calling will draw you to large gatherings and community bonfires. However this year these gatherings aren’t happening the same, which begs the question, how can you, and should you, have a bonfire in a small suburban space?

First things first, is it allowed? Yes. The Environment Agency has ruled that you are allowed to have a bonfire on Guy Fawkes night as long as its size is appropriate for the event. How can you have a size appropriate bonfire? Well, the obvious way is to house it in a fire pit. Fire pits come in all shapes and sizes and you can get one for any outside space.

Is it environmentally friendly? A fire pit is a more environmentally friendly way of having an outdoor fire than a bonfire. This is mainly to do with what you burn in it and how you burn it. The Environment Agency state that you can burn visibly clean wood that has not been painted or treated with preservatives. Why do they say that? Because during a trees life it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. It then releases the same amount of CO2 back into the atmosphere whether it is burned or decays naturally over time. This is also why burning wood is recognised as “carbon neutral” by the Carbon Trust. The part we can play is to only burn wood that has a low moisture content because this will burn more efficiently and will produce less smoke. This is because it gets to a higher temperature faster which ignites the smoke - and burns off the hydrocarbons in the wood leaving just the clear CO2. So our recommendation? Use well seasoned or kiln dried logs that you can get locally to you.

This is vastly different to a traditional bonfire which tends to burn mixed materials that will produce more smoke and noxious fumes.

How can I get the best out of my fire pit? Starting a fire in a fire pit also means you are lighting it in a dry environment (clean and off the ground) and you can build it to efficiently draw in air which will again help create a hotter fire. You should also use split logs which are smaller and therefore have a greater surface area, as this will also ensure a cleaner burn and less smoke.

Is it safe? A fire pit is a safer option for a smaller space as you can physically contain the fire, it is off the ground so cannot ignite any ground covering and you can put a lid on it at the end of the party. It is also portable so you can site it away from overhanging trees, shrubs and cables and at a safe distance, at least three meters, from wooden garden pagodas, summer houses or anything else that could catch fire.

Remember our fire safety guide

Children should be supervised at all times
Anyone wearing fancy dress should stay away from the fire - material such as nylon used in capes and Halloween costumes can melt to the skin if they catch fire
Do not leave the fire unattended
Have a bucket of water (or hose connected to a tap) near the fire ‘just in case’
Do not throw used sparklers or fire works onto the fire
Do not put petrol or paraffin on a fire
Have a torch with you, when the fire goes out, it is useful to be able to see your way back inside safely

Make this Guy Fawkes more meaningful by really enjoying the your fire and the process of how and where you make it.

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