Lifestyle Guides

Garden fire and BBQ safety

family gathered around bbq cooking food

BBQs in the garden are a UK tradition and bonfires and firepits can extend time spent in our gardens thanks to the not-so-reliable British weather.

However, fire is dangerous and can easily lead to devastating tragedies without proper care and safety.

We want you to enjoy the joys of outdoor cooking and roasting marshmallows over the fire, so read on for our fire safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.

BBQ and fire pit safety 

BBQs and fire pits encourage us to make the most of the great weather, but once you’re full of sausages and burgers, you need extinguish them properly to avoid a fire. Leaving them to gradually sizzle out isn’t a good idea.

Here’s some general safety rule for gas and charcoal BBQs from the Fire Service:

  • Make sure your BBQs working and is on a flat surface away from any shed, trees and bushes
  • Never leave it unattended
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies
  • Keep children and pets away from the area
  • Only move BBQs once cool 

Gas BBQ cylinder safety tips

  • Check the tap is off before changing the gas cylinder
  • Only change cylinders outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
  • If you suspect a leak in the cylinder or pipework, brush soapy water around the joints and look for bubbles – tighten to fix, but don’t over tighten
  • After cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before switching off the controls – this allows residual gas in the pipes to be used up

Charcoal barbecues safety tips

  • Only cover about two inches of the base of the BBQ with charcoal
  • Never use petrol, only proper firelighters or start fuel on cold coal
  • Never put hot ashes straight into the bin – they could melt the plastic and cause a fire

How to cool a charcoal barbecue

  1. Stop any air getting to the coals by popping the lid on closing the vents
  2. Gently spray water over the coals and ashes before popping the lid on and closing the vents - the water spray will speed up the cooling process
  3. Pour a bucket of water over the hot coals and stir to completely extinguish 

Bonfire safety

Here are some safety measures to keep you and your loved ones safe when having a garden bonfire.

Bonfires rules in the UK

While there are no laws against having a bonfire in your private garden, any nuisance caused by your bonfire can lead to an ‘abatement notice’ from your council. If you don’t follow their rules, you may get a £5,000 fine.

If you live near a road, you must make sure smoke doesn’t blow across a road and cause danger to the traffic on it. You also can’t burn household waste as it causes pollution and harm people’s health. We discuss ways to dispose of waste further down.

If you’re planning to have a bonfire in a public space like your local park or beach, check your council’s rules as it will vary throughout the country. Generally, if you’re safe and clean up your mess, they’re allowed. But you can be charged under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 if your fire threatens public or property safety.

Bonfire safety tips

To keep everyone safe, nominate one person responsible for lighting the fire, making sure they wear suitable, low-flammable clothing like wool. Make sure the nominated person knows how to deal with burning themselves or if their clothing catches fire.

Bonfire dos

  • Keep it far away from buildings, bushes and fences
  • Only add dry material to the bonfire to minimise the amount of smoke
  • Keep small children and animals away from the bonfire

Bonfire don’ts

  • Leave the fire unattended
  • Pour flammable liquid onto a bonfire
  • Burn aerosol cans, batteries, paint tins or furniture containing foam
  • Add household rubbish to your bonfire

Once you’re finished, thoroughly extinguish the fire by covering with soil or dousing with water. Remember – a smouldering fire could set alight again.

​Garden fire insurance claims rising 

Fire services across the UK experienced surges in the number of call outs to bonfires that got out of hand, while our Home Insurance team dealt with a 29% increase in the number of fire claims related to barbecues, firepits, bonfires and the burning of garden waste compared to the same time period in the previous year.

David Fowkes, Head of Household Underwriting at Admiral, said: “It’s not just barbecues and firepits gone-wrong that have caused this spike in garden fire claims, but also the burning of garden waste or rubbish. While this may be the tempting option to quickly dispose of things, it’s all too easy for the wrong items to end up on the fire which can cause plumes of acrid smoke or toxic chemicals being released, and even explosions.

“Hang on to your rubbish and garden waste until you can dispose of it properly and don’t be tempted to fly tip any waste either, as not only is this illegal, but can also be hazardous to other people and wildlife as well as putting extra pressure on resources which are already stretched.

Here are some alternatives to burning your garden waste.

  1. Composting - Remember, only compost green waste and fruit/veg - cooked food and dairy products can attract rats. 
  2. Wormeries - Try a worm composting bin to produce fertiliser and compost in no time. You can compost any cooked or uncooked food scraps. 
  3. Hot composting - If you want to add cooked food waste in with your garden waste, try a hot composting bin. They’re designed to heat up to a safe temperature for cooked foods to be included. 

Flexible home insurance from Admiral