Good Relations

Celebrating Culture Safely

Bonfire - Celebrating Culture Safely

This innovative approach developed by the Cultural Celebrations Working Group and supported by local community partners has been undertaken to encourage positive cultural celebrations throughout Mid and East Antrim that are carried out in a respectful and responsible manner, which minimises negative impacts on community and environment.

One of the main aims of the Cultural Celebrations Working Group is to strengthen partnerships between local community leaders and statutory partners to encourage safe, responsible and family-friendly cultural celebrations. The Cultural Celebrations Working Group behind the messaging is made up of a number of representatives from Council, PSNI, NIFRS, NI Housing Executive, Education Authority, NIE Networks, Department for Infrastructure and the NI Environment Agency. We want to ensure that all cultural celebrations are safe and respectful.

Safe Sites

  • Bonfires must be sited well away from houses, garages, sheds, overhead cables and electricity substations
  • Residents should be consulted before the bonfire is built to make sure they are comfortable with where it is located
  • Bonfire sites should be well away from areas where children usually play
  • Remember the 1:5 rule. This means the nearest property should not be any closer than 5 times the height of the bonfire
  • Wind direction should be taken into consideration to ensure fumes aren’t blowing across spectators or their homes
  • Bonfires should not be positioned on tarmac or asphalt surfaces. If the weather is dry, preferably the surface should be damped down
  • Ideally, a bonfire should be in an area and on a surface that can be easily cleaned afterwards

Safe Community

  • NEVER use flammable liquids to light bonfires as they can explode. Use domestic firelighters
  • Stockpiling material in open sites can be dangerous particularly for children and can make the neighbourhood look unsightly and encourage vermin
  • Cages or fences to outline the size of the bonfire could be considered to keep spectators at a safe distance
  • Keep the area around the bonfire tidy to prevent embers burning for days which can pose a risk to young children
  • Ensure the flames are fully extinguished after the event
  • Sand bases could be a safer and more environmental way to celebrate culture

Safe Structure

  • Ensure the structure is stable to try and prevent it collapsing
  • Bonfires should be a manageable size
  • When building the bonfire, make sure huts and dens are not built within them
  • Bonfires should be lit by a responsible adult
  • Sand bases could prevent damage to the ground

Safe Environment

  • Toxic materials, such as tyres, paint, aerosols, bottles or foam-filled furniture, are not burned or left at sites
  • Bonfires can often be used as a dumping ground, the burning of this waste can be dangerous for the health of those nearby. It is illegal to dump toxic materials
  • If any illegal waste is dumped at a bonfire site, it is advised you contact the landowner to have this removed safely

Key Contacts

In an emergency always call 999

Safer, cleaner and respectful cultural celebrations

Council will engage with local communities to develop relationships and assist in safer bonfire management. Our Environmental Services and Good Relations teams can provide information to local groups to ensure a safer, cleaner celebration. We would encourage those involved in these events, and the wider public, to report any instances where potentially hazardous materials are found at sites by contacting your local Council offices:

Ballymena Office:
T: 028 2563 3394

Carrickfergus Office:
T:028 9335 8346

Larne Office:
T: 028 2826 2498


The PSNI are committed to keeping people safe in Mid and East Antrim and want to work with the community as a whole to achieve this. Their role includes law enforcement, preventing and detecting crime and supporting other statutory agencies in their roles. Local PSNI teams continue to build relationships within communities to ensure positive cultural celebrations.   

Ballymena: Inspector Michael Simpson:
M: 07734 580501 

Carrickfergus and Larne: Inspector Trevor Atkinson
M: 07775 662096

Good Relations Manager

Bebhinn McKinley:
T: 028 2563 3525 or
M: 07753 859712

This information can be downloaded in the PDF below.

For additional bonfire safety advice please visit the NI Direct government services website.