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Environmental Protection - Bonfires

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and the Environmental Health department are urging people to cease having outdoor fires at this time.  This will reduce the strain on an already stretched resource, to ensure we can provide an effective Covid19 response during this health crisis. In addition to an unnecessary burden on the Fire and Rescue Service, smoke from burning garden waste can often impact on neighbours, particularly those who are vulnerable and especially those who are unwell with respiratory illnesses. Please be thoughtful and neighbourly in these unusual circumstances. Your thoughts and actions support us in helping everyone.

Garden bonfires produce smoke and smells, which can annoy neighbours as well as damage the environment, particularly where the bonfire guidelines are not followed. 

If a bonfire is causing smoke to drift across a road, please contact the police. 

There are no bylaws in the county regarding domestic bonfires and there are no specific times of day when bonfires are prohibited.

If bothered by smoke from a bonfire, first approach your neighbour, where you feel safe to do so, and explain the problem.  You might feel awkward but they may not be aware of the distress they are causing and it will hopefully make them more considerate in the future. 

If the garden bonfire is a one-off or small and infrequent, it is unlikely that we will be able to take any further action.  However, for large-scale garden bonfires and where you are frequently being disturbed by smoke from regular burning, please contact the Environmental Protection team using the contact details on this page .

If we receive a complaint, we will normally write to the alleged offender bringing the matter to their attention and enclosing a leaflet regarding bonfires, and send you a diary to keep from this point, any action we take would be dependant on the information received from you.

You are able to take private action in the magistrates court if you wish.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, if someone persistently causes a smoke nuisance through lighting bonfires, the Council can take action to prevent further problems.

Bonfires are definitely not the most environmentally friendly way of getting rid of waste.  We recommend that you dispose of garden waste in other ways:

If you must have a bonfire to burn any waste that cannot be composted or perhaps you want a bonfire just for fun for example Bonfire Night then it is advisable to follow these guidelines.

  • Warn your neighbours - they are much less likely to complain
  • Warn Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service
  • Only burn dry organic garden waste, or clean wood
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic,foam or paint - this is an offence.
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days. If it is too windy, smoke blows into neighbours' gardens and windows and across roads
  • Avoid burning when air pollution levels in your area are high or very high. You can check air quality on 0800 556677 or at
  • Keep your fire away from trees, fences and buildings
  • Never use oil, petrol or methylated spirits to light a fire - you could damage yourself  as well as the environment
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - put it out

It is an offence to dispose of commercial/industrial waste by burning unless carried out under an exemption.  Further information is available at the GOV.UK website.