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By Angela Hamilton

Senior Staff Writer

17 April 2020

| | 3 min read

Council issues bonfire warning

Newcastle City Council is asking local residents not to light bonfires during the coronavirus lockdown to help protect their health and save lives after a spate of incidents and call outs for the fire service. 


While some see a bonfire as a good way of disposing of excess rubbish the council are warning that the smoke produced can cause environmental and health issues and could lead to criminal charges being brought by the council, the police or the environment agency. 

Coronavirus affects the respiratory system and smoke from a bonfire can make symptoms worse for those battling the virus at home putting more pressure on the NHS.  With people self-isolating or shielding unable to leave their homes they rely on fresh air from open windows and the pollution from bonfires can have a critical impact on those with breathing difficulties. 

With reports of bonfires increasing significantly since the lockdown began the council is recommending local residents compost their garden waste and vegetation to help protect their own health and that of others. 

The council is also reminding people that they should never burn household waste as the smoke and fumes from burning plastic and synthetic products is toxic and could lead to charges being brought against offenders in Court.

And it isn’t just bonfires that are a problem.  Smoke from wood burners and barbecues can also damage the health of people who have conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and heart problems as well as those who are battling coronavirus. 

Many bonfires are illegal and fines for having an illegal fire are unlimited.  If you see a bonfire that you think might be unlawful or that is causing a nuisance you can report it by emailing

Bonfires can damage health

Councillor Nick Kemp, Cabinet Member for Environment and Regulatory Services said “Smoke from bonfires, barbecues and wood burners has an adverse impact on air quality, the environment and people’s health. 

“I’m very concerned about the rise in reports of bonfires in the city over the last few weeks.  I’m asking people to think twice before using wood burners or barbecues and not to light bonfires at all during the pandemic.

“Composting is an easy and environmentally friendly alternative way of disposing of your garden waste and other vegetation.  So please do your bit to protect yourself and others.  Stay home, stay safe and save lives.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Ian Warne, Head of Prevention and Education commented: “Crews are increasingly responding to garden fires, often ‘bonfires’ that have spread to fences, or other materials or where the fire contains items causing smoke hazardous to human health. These fires are a significant source of air pollution and the smoke can include poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide.

“In these exceptional circumstance, we’d like residents to put a stop to these fires. As well as the impact on our service, the smoke can not only be a nuisance to neighbours, but further impact the health of those who are shielding, or are ill with the virus. Just be considerate to your neighbours.”

I’m very concerned about the rise in reports of bonfires in the city over the last few weeks.  Please do your bit to protect yourself and others.  Stay home, stay safe and save lives.

Councillor Nick Kemp

Cabinet Member for Environment and Regulatory Services