Setting fires, throwing fireworks and making hoax calls are ‘bang out of order’ and will not be tolerated this Halloween and Bonfire season.
As Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and partner agencies launch this year’s Bonfire campaign, the public are asked to think carefully about their actions, consider the consequences of getting involved in anti-social behaviour and support the emergency services to help them keep people safe.
The warning comes as it’s revealed that GMFRS dealt with 4,241 deliberate fires and attended 358 hoax calls over the last three years during the Bonfire period alone* (1 September to 10 November).
There have also been 75 attacks on firefighters in the same period, with crews being abused and pelted with rocks and fireworks while trying to keep communities safe.
October 15 marks the day fireworks legally go on sale in the UK and with Government COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, GMFRS – along with other emergency services and local authorities across Greater Manchester - are gearing up for a busy few weeks as people head out to enjoy Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations.
GMFRS’ Chief Fire Officer, Dave Russel, said: “The last 18 months have been difficult for us all, and while I know most people in Greater Manchester will take this opportunity to celebrate the Bonfire season safely and responsibly, unfortunately some will not. Over the last few years our firefighters have been called out to hoaxes, deliberate fires and have even come under attack while trying to keep people safe. This is bang out of order and will not be tolerated.
“My plea this Bonfire period is to please think before you act. Setting fires, throwing fireworks and making hoax calls can destroy lives and keep our emergency services away from dealing with life-threatening incidents and keeping you, your family and your community safe.”
Superintendent, Ben Ewart, from Greater Manchester Police, said: “This Halloween and Bonfire Night, we'd like our communities to have fun but also to celebrate safely and behave in a responsible manner - please remember not everyone in your community will be celebrating these events. However, I'd like to thank the majority of our communities who are safe and respectful when celebrating these events.
"We are committed to tackling the issue of anti-social behaviour that unfortunately occurs at this time of year - we understand how distressing this type of behaviour can be and the lasting impact it can have on individuals, as well as the wider community. We would encourage parents to be aware of what your children are up to and where possible, to accompany them if they are out trick or treating, to ensure they are safe and respectful of our communities.
"We'd also like to reassure residents who may feel distressed about Halloween and Bonfire Night, that there will be increased patrols in place and not to suffer in silence; contact us if you need help.
“If you are planning on having fireworks at home this year, we ask that you act responsibly - only purchase fireworks from reputable retailers and ensure you follow the firework code to help to reduce the risk of accidents. Each year we work closely with partners to ensure that businesses comply with the laws around selling fireworks and we will continue to act upon all information around illegal fireworks, taking robust action where necessary.
“Over recent years, we have sadly seen an increase in the number of incidents where emergency service workers have been assaulted whilst helping and supporting our communities. Incidents of this nature are appalling, and we will not take these lightly - assaulting an emergency services worker is a criminal offence and officers will take action against offenders.
Dan Smith, Head of Service for Greater Manchester at North West Ambulance Service, said: “All we want is for people to enjoy Bonfire Night safely.
“We regularly attend to patients who’ve suffered injuries and burns, some of which have been life-threatening, and in most incidents, these injuries could be avoided by careful and responsible use.
“Sadly, we have also seen attacks involving fireworks, including on our staff and vehicles. This is completely unacceptable. It can result in injuries, is incredibly frightening for the victims, and where our vehicles are involved, the damage will result in ambulances being unavailable to respond to patients who could be critically ill.
“Fireworks are enjoyed by many, and we don’t want to spoil anyone’s night, but reckless use of fireworks is dangerous, and malicious use is abhorrent.
“We recommend sticking to public firework displays, or if you are using your own - be sure to follow the instructions and lay off the alcohol until after you’ve finished.”
The public are also being urged to attend officially organised events, never to play with fireworks and to make sure they check all Halloween costumes are CE marked to ensure they meet the required safety standards.
CFO Russel added: “We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable bonfire period. Officially organised firework displays are taking place again this year in some areas of Greater Manchester, so please go along to one near you if you can.
“I would also urge parents to make sure Halloween costumes are kept away from naked flames and to check they are CE marked, so they can be reassured it is safe.”
Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Fire, Bev Hughes, said: “Firefighters, paramedics and police officers all do a fantastic job keeping the communities of Greater Manchester safe, particularly during this busy time of year – they should never be subjected to attack.
“Please remember that each emergency service worker is someone’s mum, dad, daughter, son and family member doing their job and putting their lives on the line to protect our communities. So stay safe, act responsibly and respect our emergency services this Bonfire season.”
Our advice is never to have fireworks at home, but if you do please ensure you follow the Firework Safety Code:
Buy fireworks marked CE
Keep fireworks in a closed metal box
Follow the instructions on each firework
Light them at arm’s length using a taper
Stand well back
Never go back to a lit firework
Never put fireworks in your pocket
Keep a bucket of water nearby if you are setting off fireworks in your garden
Never throw fireworks
Keep pets indoors
Alcohol and fireworks do not mix and may lead to injury
GMFRS issues licences to shops which store and sell fireworks and advice has been sent to all retailers about what they need to do to store fireworks safely and reminding them that it is against the law to sell fireworks to under 18s. We also encourage retailers to adopt the Challenge 21 policy. Inspectors will be carrying out inspections over the next four weeks to make sure fireworks are stored safely and firefighters will also be visiting shops selling fireworks.
Ahead of Halloween in just over two weeks’ time, please check that your Halloween costumes are CE marked to ensure they meet the required safety standards. All garments have a risk of being flammable so it is important to keep them away from naked flames such as candles and fires at all times.
If your clothing does catch fire:
Stop what you’re doing and stay very still
Drop to the floor
Roll backwards and forwards until the flames are out