We receive many complaints about bonfires causing a repeated nuisance.   Such nuisances need never arise if consideration is shown to neighbours.  Bonfire smoke can be very irritating and even harmful, particularly to people with chest or heart problems. Having a bonfire should always be a last resort and bonfires should be small and controlled with minimal smoke.

Please consider these alternatives

The law

Bonfires are not specifically prohibited in law, but they may cause a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

A statutory nuisance occurs if smoke interferes unreasonably with the ordinary use or enjoyment of another person’s property.    

It is also an offence to burn any waste generated as a result of a commercial activity, or any waste that will cause dark or black smoke.  If you need to report an incident relating to the burning of commercial or agricultural waste you can contact the Environment Agency 0800 807060.

Anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine of up to £2000 under the Highways (Amendment) Act 1986.  Contact Devon County Council’s Highway team to report such incidents  – 0845 155 1004

How do I have a bonfire without causing a nuisance?

To reduce the likelihood of causing a nuisance, please consider the following:

  • How often you burn – The more often you have a bonfire, the more likely it is that your neighbours will complain
  • The size of the fire – it must be small enough to be controllable and hot enough to burn with minimal smoke
  • Location – as far away from neighbours as possible
  • Weather – ideally no wind or a light breeze, blowing away from nearby houses
  • Suitable materials – Only burn dry material as this will burn quickly and give off a minimal amount of smoke and smell.  You may be able to burn dry garden waste, clean wood, paper or card.  Never burn oil, green garden waste, animal bedding, rubber, plastic, foam or paint, as these can produce dark smoke, which is potentially toxic and environmentally unacceptable.

If you would like to make a complaint please speak to the owner of the bonfire first.   If this fails please report a problem with smoke.

Please download our bonfire leaflet here.