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Households warned of dangers of celebrating Bonfire Night at home

Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent
·3-min read

Households are being warned of the dangers of trying to celebrate Bonfire Night at home, as lockdown restrictions curb community events.

Insurer Aviva said its data shows fire claims increased by two-thirds (66%) between November 5 and 7 last year, compared with the rest of the month.

In 2018, the increase was even more remarkable on Bonfire Night of November 5, with claims increasing by 150%, compared with the rest of the month.

Aviva said claims have often included damage to fences, sheds and garages caused by out-of-control bonfires.

Fireworks were also responsible for burning trampolines, artificial grass and in some cases, interiors of homes, when fireworks crashed through windows or were put through letterboxes maliciously.

In one incident, a very loud firework cause a patio door pane to crack due to the noise alone.

Earlier this year, Aviva saw an increase in fire claims during lockdown, as people burnt rubbish at their homes when refuse sites were closed. Home barbecues were also the cause of some blazes.

Sarah Applegate, strategy and insight lead, global general insurance, Aviva, said: “With community bonfires off the agenda this year, many households may be planning to enjoy bonfires and displays at home. We appreciate that families want to celebrate, particularly after such a challenging year, but we’d encourage people to take even more care than usual, as so many individual fires and firework displays may be happening at the same time.

“Our records show that we tend to see an increase of home insurance claims for fire damage at the start of November. And it’s not just during the bonfires or firework displays where the risk lies. A number of claimants report disposing of ashes, only to find they were still hot enough to burn through bins or refuse piles.

“We also see quite a few claims where sparks have flown into neighbouring properties and gardens, so be sure to keep a watch on any stray embers. If people are planning to have a bonfire or fireworks, we’d urge them to do it with caution and stay on their guard.”

Here are Aviva’s tips for staying safe on Bonfire Night:

1. If you plan to have a display at home, make sure your fireworks carry the CE mark.

2. Be careful where you aim fireworks, particularly those which shoot into the air, like rockets. Make sure they are directed away from people, trees and buildings, and never throw them.

3. Keep fireworks in a closed tin and never carry them in pockets.

4. Do not leave your bonfire unattended. Fires can get out of control in seconds, so make sure someone is watching over your blaze at all times and go easy with accelerants.

5. Be careful with what you burn. You should only burn dry materials such as wood and dry leaves. Bonfires should not be used to get rid of household waste such as plastic packaging and you should not burn aerosols, tyres, painted or treated wood, or anything containing paint or foam.

6. Watch the weather. Windy conditions can spread fires quickly over a large area. Flames and embers can stray into neighbouring properties and Aviva data shows fires can often start at a different address.

7. Take care when disposing of cinders and matches. Ashes can stay hot for hours after a fire appears to have gone out. Aviva has seen several claims where a fire has ignited after embers have burnt through a bin.

8. Think of others. Neighbours can report you if they feel your bonfire is causing a nuisance. Be considerate about the time of your event too and keep the noise down and do not let smoke blow on to a road.

9. Check your stack for wildlife. Before you set light to your bonfire, make sure there are no inhabitants, such as hedgehogs or nesting birds. A pile of sticks and leaves can make a cosy home for wildlife.

10. Be prepared. Keep a bucket of water or sand to hand, just in case.