Avoid dangerous illegal fireworks at all costs, councils and fire authorities warn

People should avoid making last-minute purchases of cheap fireworks from suspect outlets which could cause them serious injury, councils and fire and rescue services are urging after seizing hauls of the explosives stored illegally in the run-up to Bonfire Night.


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The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils and fire authorities in England and Wales, is reminding consumers to only buy approved fireworks from licensed premises – rather than from unlicensed outlets, such as car boot sales, vehicles or private houses, and not through social media.

The LGA is also encouraging people and businesses to store fireworks securely to avoid potential risks to life and property.

The warning follows recent large-scale seizures of fireworks and incidents in which the explosives have been let off accidentally, severely damaging people’s homes. These include:

  • Almost 500kg of fireworks was seized by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service after being stored illegally in Newcastle – including in a garage alongside propane cylinders, petrol and live unsecured electrical wires, creating a risk of explosion. The fire service has also made a video to tell the story of a teenager who lost part of his finger and suffered severe injuries to his hand after an accident with a firework
     
  • About £2,000 worth of fireworks which were being stored illegally in a van in a potentially dangerous container and sold through social media were seized by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards
     
  • A kitchen was destroyed after a young child let off a firework in a home in Wrexham in an incident attended by North Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

To minimise the irresponsible use of fireworks, Trading Standards teams at councils across the country have been carrying out test purchases with underage volunteers to flush out any rogue retailers selling them illegally. Fireworks – including sparklers - can only be sold to adults.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Fireworks are explosives and can be extremely dangerous, uncontrollable weapons when used inappropriately. These dangers are magnified when using illegal fireworks which are made from inferior materials that can cause life-changing injuries.

“People should only buy fireworks from reputable and licensed sellers, rather than from unlicensed outlets, such as car boot sales, or through social media.

“Fireworks should be checked to confirm that they have the CE mark on them and then used in appropriate settings in accordance with the safety instructions.

“Most firework licence holders are responsible retailers and store and sell fireworks safely, inside shops and locked containers, where there is no risk of them setting alight.

“However, as the illegal sale of fireworks to under-18s can lead to anti-social behaviour and serious injuries, Trading Standards teams won’t hesitate to prosecute anyone flouting the law by selling fireworks to children, or by selling illegal, inferior fireworks. Anyone caught could face hefty fines and a prison sentence.

“We want everyone to enjoy Bonfire Night and would encourage people to make sure they buy suitable fireworks for displays in their own back garden, or consider going to an organised event which is generally a bigger, better and, most importantly, safer experience.”

Anyone who suspects someone is selling fireworks illegally should contact their local council’s Trading Standards via Citizens Advice on 03454 040506.

CASE STUDIES

  • A total of 464kg of fireworks was seized by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service after being stored illegally in two premises in Newcastle – including in a garage alongside propane cylinders, petrol and live unsecured electrical wires. The fireworks were being stored at a level far greater than the licence permitted, while one of the premises didn’t hold a licence to store fireworks. Fireworks were being offered for sale outside the firework season. A video made by the fire service telling the story of a teenager who lost part of his finger and suffered severe injuries to his hand after an accident with a firework can be viewed here.
     
  • About £2,000 worth of fireworks which were being stored illegally in a van in an inappropriate and potentially dangerous container and sold through social media were seized by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards.
     
  • A kitchen was destroyed after a young child let off a firework in a home in Wrexham in an incident attended by North Wales Fire and Rescue Service. A man, woman and three children, aged eight, four and one, escaped unharmed.

NOTES TO EDITOR

  1. Anyone selling or using fireworks illegally can be fined up to £5,000 and receive a prison sentence of up to six months.
  2. Legal restrictions on fireworks can be viewed here.
  3. Advice on how to organise a firework display can be viewed here.