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Fire Safety and the Great Outdoors

Parched ground in the summer is a fire risk, but you should take care year-round. Follow these tips to reduce the chance of a wildfire outdoors:

  • ensure cigarettes are properly put out and can’t reignite
  • don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of vehicle windows
  • avoid using open fires in the countryside
  • don’t leave bottles or glass outdoors – sunlight shining through glass can start fires
  • only use barbecues in a suitable and safe area, and never leave them unattended
  • if you see a fire in the countryside, report it to the fire service immediately via 999
  • do not attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible.

Fire destroys thousands of acres of countryside, open space and wildlife habitat every year. Sadly, many of these fires are started deliberately but, by following a few simple precautions, many others can be prevented:

  • Dispose of smoking materials responsibly and make sure they’re completely out. Never throw them to the ground or out of vehicle windows
  • Ideally, never have an open fire in the countryside
  • Do not leave camp fires or barbecues unattended, and extinguish them properly after use
  • Clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to prevent them magnifying the sun’s rays and starting a fire
  • Flames aren’t games – explain to children the personal and environmental dangers of playing with fire
  • If fire breaks out, call 999 immediately. Be clear about your location, mention any landmarks – perhaps a church or pub – and, if phoning from a phone box, stay nearby so you can direct the fire engines to the scene
  • If you can do so safely, prepare for the arrival of firefighters at a pre-arranged meeting point by unlocking gates, etc
  • Do not attempt to fight the fire yourself unless it is very small and can be put out with a bucket of water – grass and crop fires can travel very quickly.

Barbecue safety tips:

To avoid injuries or damage to property follow these simple precautions:

  • Never leave a barbecue unattended.
  • Ensure the barbecue is on a flat site, well away from a shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Keep children, garden games and pets well away from the cooking area.
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies.
  • Ensure the barbecue is cool before attempting to move it.

Disposable Barbecues:

If you do use a disposable barbecue:

  • It must be placed on an even surface on either bricks or paving slabs.
  • Place disposable barbecues well away from the house, shed or fences.
  • Do not use disposable barbecues near or on public benches.
  • If you're using a disposable barbecue ensure it has cooled before putting it in the bin. To avoid starting a fire you should allow it to cool for several hours and then consider pouring water over it to make sure it's out.

Charcoal Barbecues:

  • Use only enough charcoal to cover the base to a depth of about 50mm (2 inches).
  • Only use recognised fire lighters or starter fuel and only on cold coals - use the minimum necessary and never use petrol.
  • Never put hot ashes straight into a dustbin or wheelie bin - they could melt the plastic and cause a fire.

Gas Barbecues:

  • Make sure the tap is turned off before changing the gas cylinder.
  • Change cylinders outdoors if possible or in a well ventilated area.
  • If you suspect a leak to the cylinder or pipe work, brush soapy water around the joints and watch for bubbles - tighten to fix but do not overtighten.
  • After cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before turning off at the controls to ensure any residual gas in the pipe work is used up.

Be carbon monoxide aware

Never use fuel-burning devices (e.g. disposable barbecues, camping stoves, camping heaters, lanterns, and charcoal grills) inside a tent.
Using these indoors can cause Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

They give off fumes for hours and hours after you have used them - levels high enough to result in CO poisoning.

To avoid hazardous CO exposures, fuel-burning equipment should never be used inside a tent, camper, or other enclosed shelter.
Fuel-burning equipment can include:

  • camping stoves
  • camping heaters
  • lanterns
  • charcoal grills
  • disposable barbecues

Opening tent flaps, doors, or windows is insufficient to prevent build-up of CO concentrations from these devices.

Also, when using fuel-burning devices outdoors, the exhaust should not vent into enclosed shelters.

Bonfire safety:

If you are having a bonfire, to get rid of garden waste or as part of a celebration, follow our simple tips to make sure you, your property and others are safe.

Building a bonfire:

  • Only burn dry material. Damp material causes more smoke
  • Build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees
  • Check there are no cables, like telephone wires, above the bonfire
  • Don't use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going, it may get out of control quickly

Bonfire safety tips:

Once the bonfire is lit, make sure you:

  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby, in case of emergencies
  • Do not leave the bonfire unattended
  • Keep children and pets away from the bonfire
  • Do not throw any fireworks into the fire
  • Do not burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint, many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode, causing injury
  • Spray the embers with water (once the bonfire has died down) to stop it re-igniting.

Did you know?

  • On average, 127 fires in homes and buildings in the UK are started by fireworks every year.
  • The majority of firework-related injuries happen at family or private parties.
  • It is an offence to throw or discharge a firework in a street or public place and can result in prosecution and a fine of up to £5000.
  • It is against the law to carry fireworks in public if you're under 18.
  • Fireworks must not be sold to anyone who is under 18.
  • It is an offence to let fireworks off during night hours (11pm to 7am), except on Bonfire Night (midnight), Diwali, New Year, and Chinese New Year (1am).
  • It is an offence under the Explosives Act 1875 to tamper with or modify fireworks.
  • Sparklers can reach temperatures more than 15 times hotter than boiling water.
  • If you have concerns regarding a neighbour's nuisance bonfire, please see your local council's website for advice.

Sky Lanterns:

  • Sky lanterns are a beautiful sight – but the potential damage they can cause is significant.
  • They use the heat of a naked flame to float. They’re not only a fire hazard but also a danger to livestock, agriculture, camping activities, thatched properties and hazardous material sites.
  • Whilst ignition and launch are mostly in the control of the user, the actual flight path and end destination are not. There’s no guarantee the fuel cell will be completely out and cooled when the lantern lands, so any contact with a flammable surface could start a fire.
  • There’s evidence of them causing fires, wasting police time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading aircraft and killing livestock.


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