Council and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service are urging residents to avoid lighting bonfires during the COVID-19 pandemic

23 April 2020

Cheshire West and Chester Council has joined with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service to issue an urgent appeal to residents to consider their neighbours and not light fires in their gardens during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause significant respiratory problems for people who contract the virus.  When they are trying to manage symptoms at home and following health advice by opening windows as much as possible, smoke from neighbouring properties or nearby allotments could affect breathing difficulties.

Although councils have limited powers to take action against one-off, domestic bonfires, the Council and Fire and Rescue Service are asking residents to show consideration for neighbours who may be fighting to recover from the effects of COVID-19 by not lighting fires at all.

Everyone understands that with recycling centres closed and kerbside garden waste collections and bulk waste collections suspended, people will generate extra waste at this time. However, the priority is to maintain collections of household waste at this time.

For garden waste, residents can consider home composting or alternatively, garden waste and other waste that won’t go off can be bagged and stored for disposal once restrictions are lifted.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Chief Fire Officer Gus O’Rourke said: "During these unprecedented times we are working with our partner agencies to ensure that everyone stays safe in their homes and gardens.

“Since the start of the lockdown situation we’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of garden related fires we are attending and we just don’t need it. 

“We will always respond to emergency calls, but unnecessary fires such as these pull our firefighters away from other vital work and could expose them to the coronavirus.

“Any fire can create a lot of smoke and easily get out of hand very quickly, especially grass fires, which can travel and change direction without warning.”

Cllr Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport said: “We are urging people not to burn any materials, we know that recycling centres may be closed for now, but refuse collections are continuing.  It is really important that we all consider others at this time so we need to make sure those in our communities who may have respiratory problems are protected – and we can do this by not creating smoke and fire in the open air.

“You can also help to take the pressure off all our emergency services by staying at home.  If there is less pressure on the fire and rescue service, then there is less pressure on all other emergency and health services. Please ensure you only dial 999 in the event of an emergency – stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS.”

Gus added: “If any fire starts accidentally in your home or garden then please do not attempt to put the fire out yourself.  Get out, stay out and call 999.”

The Council is also advising residents to be aware of unlicensed waste carriers. Residents can arrange for the collection of their own waste through a reliable waste collection provider, who is licensed to collect, transport, and safely dispose of waste.

If a resident chooses to use this method of collection, they should make sure they have proof the person collecting their waste has the correct licence.  If their waste is then fly-tipped by the carrier the householder could be liable for prosecution.

Cllr Shore explained: “We’ve become aware of people offering such services via social media at the moment but they may not be what they claim to be.  Please check before you hand over your waste to anyone.”

If you have any concerns about unlicensed waste carriers please contact the Council’s Regulatory Services team: regulatoryservices@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk.

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