South Oxfordshire District Council are urging people not to light bonfires at this time to protect the respiratory health of the vulnerable and to avoid unnecessary burden on the NHS.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and smoke inhalation can impair people’s breathing.  In addition to this, with larger numbers of people now working from home and also looking after children, the smoke from such bonfires can cause unnecessary nuisance to your neighbours.

Do you really need to have a bonfire to dispose of your waste?

We recommend you consider the following alternatives:

How to prevent your bonfire being a problem to others

If you still feel that having a bonfire is the only option, it is important that you follow the advice:

  • out of courtesy, inform your neighbours you are proposing to have a bonfire
  • only burn dry ‘clean’ wood/garden waste 
  • do not burn household rubbish, such as plastic, foam, paint or rubber.
  • do not light bonfires when the material is damp because this shall generate more smoke
  • do not use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire
  • do not light bonfires when the wind is likely to blow smoke into neighbours’ home or garden
  • do not leave bonfires unattended, even if it is just smouldering.

How can I complain about nuisance smoke from a bonfire?

There are no bylaws about garden bonfires, so anyone can light one at any time and as often as they like. 

However, if it causes a statutory nuisance, the council can do something about it and so can you. For a bonfire to be classed as such a nuisance, the smoke will have to be affecting you in your home and/or garden.  It will also need to be happening on a regular basis (two or three times a week), not once every two or three months. 

There are laws relating to burning trade waste on industrial or commercial premises (including building sites).  If these bonfires emit dark smoke, then an immediate offence is committed and the district council or Environment Agency can potentially take action which could include prosecuting the offender.

Report a problem online

If you feel comfortable, speak to the person/business who has the bonfire and explain the problem it is causing.   If the problem still continues and is affecting you and your enjoyment of your home or garden, you can make a complaint.

You can report a problem about a domestic garden bonfire by using the contact details on this page or by filling in our online domestic bonfire complaint form.

You can report a problem about a bonfire from a business or made up of trade waste by using the contact details on this page or by filling in our online commercial bonfire complaint form.