Some of you may have heard Claire talking on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 recently when he hosted a phone in on the danger of disposable barbecues. If you missed it, you can listen here, just skip to 50:32.
Bonfires, fire pits and barbecues are all popular additions to our gardens but as summer approaches it’s important to make sure you are using them safely in your garden.
From our own perspective, we have seen the damage that can be done when a disposable barbecue gets out of hand in a garden. Claire was asked to visit a client to quote for installing a new hedge. On arrival it became clear that there had been a fire. In fact, our client’s neighbour had placed a smouldering disposable barbecue on the compost heap where it had gone on to cause a fire. The fire destroyed our client’s hedge, the fence, a shed (and contents) and a neighbouring workshop which had been used to store electrical equipment. The result was thousands of pounds of damage that could easily have been avoided.
In the wake of the pandemic, and with foreign holidays still looking somewhat in doubt, UK homeowners have embraced their gardens with renewed enthusiasm. They provide an extension to our homes and, under ongoing restrictions offer somewhere to entertain friends and family. But if you’ve invested in a fire pit or barbecue, use disposable barbecues or are partial to a bonfire, we’d urge you to proceed with caution.
Here are Claire’s top tips for enjoying your garden safely this summer:
Contrary to popular belief, the law (at the time of writing) regarding bonfires in private gardens is actually quite simple. There isn’t one. You are pretty much free to have a bonfire whenever you choose. That said, there are laws regarding any resulting nuisance so it’s important to be mindful of that.
For example, it would be a common courtesy not to light a bonfire on a glorious summer day if you live in a built up area and your neighbours are also trying to enjoy their gardens. They won’t thank you if they can’t hang their washing on the line or have to shut windows and doors due to your smoke!
You may also fall foul of the law if the smoke drifts across nearby roads or causes environmental or health risks. Your local authority can issue abatement notices for repeat offenders and fines that run into thousands of pounds.
If you must have a bonfire, then be mindful of what you are burning, take care to ensure it is not left unattended, is not in a position where it can do damage to property and is properly extinguished when you’re finished with it. Fires can smoulder for hours which results in the risk of it flaring up when nobody is around and potentially being left to burn out of control.
Every year there are calls for disposable barbecues to be banned - usually following spates of fires in public places as a result of unsafe barbecues. And the risk isn’t contained to your garden. In the New Forest National Park, park rangers extinguished over 60 unsafe barbecues in 2020.
As mentioned at the start of this article, disposable barbecues can do considerable damage to your and your neighbours gardens if they’re not extinguished properly. Whilst in use, they can damage your garden, for example by scorching grass or decking. The best advice is to ensure it is properly extinguished using water or sand and then leaving it to go completely cold before putting it in the bin.
Unless you live in an area with specific bylaws in place, fire pits and barbecues are not usually restricted. Indeed, even in smoke free zones, they are often allowed.
Fire pits and barbecues are common features in UK gardens with fire pits allowing you to stay outside for longer when the british summer weather gets chilly! And who doesn’t enjoy food cooked on the barbecue when you’re enjoying time in the garden with friends.
Despite being frequently used, we still hear far too many news stories of people, pets and property being harmed as a result of incidents and accidents. Following manufacturer guidelines and showing respect for the risk posed by both the fire and the heat generated, will help to ensure you can enjoy yourself safely.
And, of course, as with anything like this, consider the risk to yourself and others, your and your neighbours property as well as the risk to pets and wildlife. And always make sure fire pits and barbecues are fully out at the end of the day.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you can enjoy your garden safely is to carefully design how your outdoor space will be used. For example;
Whatever you want to use your garden for, clever design will help you make the most of the space and create somewhere you enjoy spending time.