Fireworks & bonfires: Do take care

Fireworks are delightful inventions that bring fun and enjoyment to everyone (except maybe dogs and older adults). But they’re also small dangerous missiles packed with gunpowder that fire ‘payloads’ at hundreds of miles an hour into the sky to explode in a (hopefully) controlled and artistic way.

Without sounding like too much of a party pooper, it’s the same story for bonfires. Although for millennia, they’ve kept us warm and provided us with a focal point for getting together, a bonfire is one flicker away from a wildfire. Even a tiny back garden burn up can blaze at up to 1,100 degrees Celsius (over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s hot enough to melt some metals.

Safe to say, there’s no such thing as taking too much care when it comes to being around fireworks and bonfires. Particularly when it comes to looking after your vision.

Staying safe this bonfire night

Top of the list of advice for staying safe and protecting your eyes on bonfire night is attending an organised display. Going to an event that’s organised by the local council or run by experts is not only a great way to ensure you can still see the next day, but that you get to see the most spectacular demonstrations. Food trucks and stewards also often help out and provide information about, say, the right way to use sparklers.

And that brings us to our second point. Sparklers are essentially burning rods of metal that happen to look pretty. Once they’re lit, this means they won’t hesitate in giving off sparks that fly into your face and burn your eyes.

The guidance on using sparklers then is pretty straightforward: don’t give them to children under five, keep them at arm’s length and never bring them close to your face, and always use them in a safe, hazard-free environment where there’s plenty of space and a bucket of water close to hand.

Moving on, if you’re putting on a mini firework display at home or want to shoot off a few to keep the neighbours up, then there are some basic rules you should follow.

First things first, when buying fireworks, make sure you do so from a reputable retailer and that the product itself meets the British standards. A lot of incidents with fireworks can be avoided by simply sticking to this rule, not least because there’s a big market of cheap fireworks that often fail to meet the necessary standards and, somewhat unexpectedly, don’t go off as expected.

When it comes to lighting them, make sure you put on the goggles. This doesn’t mean sticking on your glasses, nor does it mean trying to cover your face with a hat and scarf. Polycarbonate lenses, available from most DIY stores, are necessary if you want to fully protect your eyes (you can wear them over your specs).

Next, you want to make sure to hold the firework at arm’s length before liting it using the specially designed taper and standing well back — at least five to eight metres for garden fireworks and twenty-five metres for display fireworks. Note: You never want to get these two mixed up; make sure you know what you’re buying and that you read the packet thoroughly before use. If the firework doesn’t go off, don’t return to it — it may have a damaged fuse and could explode at any time. I told you they were dangerous.

Bonfire safety follows many of the same basic principles of firework safety — only do so in an open, clear area, keep a bucket of water handy, don’t mix with other items such as aerosols, paint, or paraffin. However, fires are a beast of their own, and if you’re planning to build your own, you should check out the complete list of recommended precautions and steps to ensure you do it safely.

Once you have all these bases covered, then you can finally relax and remember the most important rule of all, to have lot’s of safe, trouble-free fun this bonfire night and enjoy the show.