If your school is planning a Bonfire Night celebration this year, it is obviously hugely important to make sure you run the event in the safest way possible. Obviously the safest option is to hire a qualified, professional company to run the event for you, but whatever you do it is essential to carry out a full risk assessment. One of the key elements of any Bonfire Night celebration is, of course, the bonfire itself, but it is also a massive potential safety hazard. It is vitally important, therefore, to take the correct steps to make sure you have a safe, controlled fire. That way you can have a great celebration, rather than a visit from the fire brigade. Here are some of the key issues to consider.
Choosing a location
Before you do anything, you need to select an appropriate place to build your bonfire. Make sure you have a space that is a safe distance away from sheds, fences, trees and anything else flammable to which the fire could spread. A good rule of thumb is to leave a minimum distance of at least five times the height of the bonfire between the edge of the fire and anything else. It’s also important to make sure there are no wires, cables or anything else overhanging the site of the fire which could potentially be damaged by the flames or heat.
What to burn
It is really important to make sure you use appropriate types of fuel for you bonfire to minimise any potential risks. You should only burn dry material such as wood, paper and cardboard that will burn easily and relatively safety. Burning damp wood, paper or straw generally causes large amounts of smoke which can be an inhalation risk and will reduce your visibility of the fire, making it harder for you to monitor the blaze effectively. Under no circumstances burn old aerosol containers, such as deodorant or spray paint cans as these can easily explode. You should also not put old tyres on the fire as these can give off toxic fumes as they burn which can be harmful if inhaled.
Getting the fire started
The safest way to get your fire started is by using fire lighters and it is best to get the blaze going at least a couple of hours before your celebration is due to start. This gives you time to start small and steadily add more fuel allowing you to keep control of the fire. Never be tempted to start a fire with petrol, methylated spirits or similar as this can cause a fire to spread very fast and not give you sufficient time to retreat to a safe distance.
Staying in control
One of the most important safety precautions you can take is to have several buckets of water and sand on hand in case the fire gets out of control. Ideally you should also have a water based fire extinguisher nearby as this can help you more effectively target an out of control fire. Whatever you do, never leave your bonfire unattended as this is one of the top causes of fire safety issues on Bonfire Night. When you come to extinguish your fire, never leave it smouldering, make sure you douse the flames with water or sand and then cover any remaining material with more sand or earth to starve the embers of oxygen, preventing any risk of re-ignition.
The best way to minimise the risk from fire at your school is to have appropriate fire training. We run courses specifically designed for educational premises covering everything you need to know to maintain a safe environment for your staff and students. To find out more or to book a course please fill out our online contact form or call us on 0117 957 3039.