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Bonfire Blues! Please be considerate when lighting up.2020


Join our campaign for CleanFreshAir without pollutants such as

Contact us:
We are very sorry if we are unable to reply to your letters and emails as speedily as normal.


Your webmaster suffers from an illness that can make breathing very difficult - this is why I live in a rural area and have done so for nearly 60 years. I live here where there are fewer traffic fumes, but it seems that some people think that they can do whatever they like whenever they like and provided it's not strictly ilegal can completely ignore upsetting their neighbours. Smoke can drift a long way when there is little wind and a fire lit at the top of a hill can spread a long way. I hope this helps explain why I have written this personal page on the village website.

The Government have issued a web page about bonfires..

Yes, of course if you live in a rural area you must be able to burn your garden rubbish. But please do it on a windy or at least a breezy day and when the stuff to be burnt is reasonably dry. Put down some wood, let that get well alight and then put the garden waste on top. Leaving freshly cut grass and hedge clippings to just smoulder all night is downright selfish.

We used to think it OK to sit in a cinema or theatre and breathe in other peoples cigarette and cigar smoke, that is now completely unthinkable. Perhaps in the not too distant future people will say the same thing about opening their door and finding bonfire smoke hanging in the air!

Reminder, you can receive up to a £50,000 fine if you burn anything other than garden waste! NO plastic, NO coated cardboard (most boxes are coated and carcinogenic if you breathe in the smoke). NO furniture, old chairs or old beds, old painted windows or treated timber etc. If your builders burn rubbish in your garden the law says they act as your servants and YOU get the fine!

The Parish Council pay for a waste container to visit the village, please use it!

Please also read the very helpful message from a local firefighter reproduced directly below.

The rules the Fire Brigade use

We have received an interesting and helpful message from a local fire fighter who supports our cause. He has given us an insight into the sort of things the local Fire Brigade look at when visiting bonfires - often described by the caller as out of control - those which the Brigade call a "fire in the open". Whilst this list refers particularly to West Sussex calls we are told that other areas of the UK would use similar rules.

Here is what he wrote...

We often get called to Bonfires, and usually will attend. The majority of the bonfires we attend are perfectly fine and under control, and we have often been called by a neighbour who is fed up with the smoke. In this situation we cannot put the bonfire out. Yes it may be anti-social but that is not enough for us to put it out. Here is a list of the times when we can/will/might put it out:

· If the bonfire is very large and has the potential to become out of control.

· If the bonfire is unattended.

· What is burning, legally you are only allowed to burn your own garden waste. This must not include treated timber/plastics/furniture etc. If you burn anything other than garden waste you run the risk of up to a £50,000 fine. This would be dealt with by environmental health.

· If the position of the bonfire is close to a building or trees, especially during very dry or very windy weather.

· The person with the bonfire should have some water nearby should the fire get out of control suddenly such as a garden hose/buckets of water.

· If the smoke from the bonfire is drifting across a road creating a hazard to drivers.

This is not an exhaustive list and by no means a definite guide.

Quite often we will take no action, but if you have genuine concerns about a bonfire being too big, unattended or the wrong type of material being burnt then we will attend and put it out if we deem it necessary.

We are extremely grateful to this fire fighter for taking the interest to contact us and are sure the information will be used by readers in different areas to gain an insight into whether they should call out the brigade.

Thank you.


Thought for the week
(inspired by actual events)

It's a lovely evening, not a breath of wind. I know, let's have a bonfire! We can light it, make sure that the smoke hangs nicely in the air, and then go into our double glazed house.
Oh, the children down the road who have asthma? They can play indoors for the evening and sleep in sweltering bedrooms because they dare not open their windows, can't they? Damn that ambulance waking me up at 2a.m. taking that old man with emphysema to hospital. Couldn't he just go and live somewhere else instead of disturbing my sleep?
How inconsiderate!


We have been contacted by three residents this week asking if there is anything that the Parish Council can do about the people who light up bonfires without a moments thought for their neighbours.

The last Saturday in September was absolutely glorious with no wind and an afternoon temperature of 20 degrees. Many villagers tried to make up for our appalling summer by sitting out even eating outside yet at both ends of the village smoke hung in the still air. Yes we do appreciate that one resident waited until after 6 p.m. to light up but given the totally still (indeed foggy) conditions, this must still be regarded as being a nuisance. After all with no wind where could the smoke go?

We certainly think that this country has enough rules and regulations but it does seem that common sense consideration for others has gone out of the window so perhaps it is time for (yet another) new law.

Along with this will of course come a man in van wearing a yellow waterproof jacket over his stab vest. On his back will be a blue sign saying not "Police", "Community Support Officer" or even "Civil Enforcement Officer" (all of which have been seen in Haywards Heath recently) but perhaps "Air Pollution Control Officer"?

Yes because of a few inconsiderate people it may HAVE to happen, even here in glorious Sussex!



Letters just received...

"There are two sorts of people, those who light bonfires when there is no wind to blow the smoke away - they are ignorant bastards, and those who suffer from the smoke."

I think you site is great – I too find bonfires totally obnoxious and selfish. There really is no need for them in this day and age. I have severe environmental asthma and my chest is congested all the time now (aged 65, never smoked, ill like this the last 15 years, began when neighbours’ installed a large hi-tech wood stove …. And they burnt stuff 24 hrs a day and sent it all over us …. we lived there several years, the docs were telling me I must have allergies or something (no, I did not – tests all negative). I coughed up so much yellow stuff and it was always worse when the smoke was worse. Now I cannot tolerate even one whiff of smoke (or perfumes or chemical cleaning agents, bleach, ammonia, paint, diesel fumes, hot fat …… needless to say I lead a very quiet life now – can’t travel, can’t visit the grandchildren etc. Never mind, could be worse ….. but oh, bonfires!!! We had to move (lost a lot of money over that …) and now we are somewhere very rural – we used propane for our CH and I just have to avoid, avoid, avoid – anything that makes my breathing worse – otherwise I’m all congested for weeks. On Pulmicort & Combivent for 15 years now, by nebuliser.

We have no immediate neighbours – but the farmers are not far off and they LOVE their bonfires! God knows why. Most of them are not in good health. And even just ordinary retired folks like us seem to enjoy a good old bonfire – I don’t get it. I have concluded that many are former cig. smokers who had to give it up and now get a “good feeling” (??) by having a bonfire instead?? I mean, who on earth wants to reek of smoke like that? And then cough and wheeze and have the stink all around you, and your loved ones, for days? Also, I suspect these people are what I call “nose-dead”. Just like the people who drench themselves, and their kiddies, in scented-everything (esp. fabric conditioner – to us that stuff is VILE). Oh well, modern world, I suppose ……. But these bonfires are almost mediaeval, aren’t they?

I was pleased to find your site and your forthright comments. Thank you for what you are saying – keep it going – and all the best to you. I shall print some of what you’ve said and pass it on to the lady who lives near us who a big fire the other evening – I was worried for their safety and rang to see if their house was on fire (could just see the huge burn-up and red flames through the trees behind us). She thanked me for our concern – but said, not to worry they were “just burning up an old sofa and didn’t know it would flare up quite so much”. It was close to their house too – and her husband is severely disabled. The idiots!

Best regards, Judy

As an asthma sufferer I can only applaud your stand against inconsiderate bonfires. In the last year I have spent three periods in hospital, at least one of these caused by bonfire smoke.

I believe the worst offenders are those who are too crafty to light their bonfires during the evening. If they did this then at least we could close our windows at night. It's when you wake up in the middle of the night with an asthma attack caused by the smoke from a bonfire lit after the pubs turn out. Burning garden rubbish is bad enough, but when they put plastic and household rubbish on as well then it's just asking for trouble.

There are two sorts of people, those who light bonfires when there is no wind to blow the smoke away - they are ignorant bastards, and those who suffer from the smoke. If only one could make the other understand then perhaps a change in the law wouldn't be needed, but I think that it is.

Keep up the good work,

(signed) Mary McCloud.


Three days is two too many!

We local residents who have breathing difficulties do appreciate it when our neighbours wait until a turn in the weather to light up, for the last couple of weeks we have been in a drought with a hosepipe ban imposed, and when we heard the lawnmowers we knew that it wouldn't be long before the smoke started. What, wait for the clippings to dry up before setting fire to them, that would be too considerate.

The only problem was they decided to light their bonfire (of green grass cuttings remember) in a shower. The shower turned into rain, and the rain into a tempest, but still every time there was a pause in the wet they relit their smouldering pile (with plastic covered cardboard from the smell). Last night the air was filled with debris and bits of paper ash which hang in the air like snow.

It's now Thursday afternoon and the sun has come out, my wife tried to dry some washing but an hour later the smoke and dreadful smell returned! The children are at home for 6 weeks and with the return of sunshine might have liked to get away from the TV, only they would have to breathe carcinogenic smoke, the neighbours certainly don't care about that sort of thing!

If they can legislate for an Olympic games then surely inconsiderate bonfires shouldn't be impossible to control. Please, please, let's get this bonfire menace sorted.

Another disgusted resident


At last we have some good weather-a chance to sit outdoors and enjoy a drink and a meal; maybe hang some washing on the line or just enjoy the fresh air. BUT NO!! Here we are again with the selfish, inconsiderate villagers who think they can light up, pollute the air and let it all blow away.
This evening the air over Hamsland was full of large black lumps emanating from a big burn up over the way, gently floating down over my table and chairs and forcing an early departure indoors. Only a few days ago I had to suffer a day long smoulder and garden full of smoke from another source, forcing me to use a clothes dryer on a lovely warm day!! To say I am incensed is an understatement, but how do we stop them? Naming and shaming on the website will probably have limited effect as not all residents have access to the internet. I will be writing to the Parish Council and Mid Sussex Council about bonfires because I think it is really time legislation was introduced to stop them. Why should the bad, inconsiderate behaviour of some residents cause so much misery and inconvenience to so many others. I felt physically sick the other day when the window was open, as the foul smell and smoke was drifting indoors.
It is all very well saying you have to expect this in the country but NO! There is no reason on earth why we should have to endure this perennial problem, especially over a 12 hour period or more. It is time to act and I am determined to start the ball rolling to improve the environment of our village once and for all. Watch this space!
A disgusted resident


There IS a way to do it properly.

So how DO you get rid of garden rubbish? Simply burn it, but try doing it this way!

First choose a day when there is a wind to blow all the smoke away but there isn't a gale blowing (we'd have thought that every villager could understand that one!). Second, make sure that the bonfire is dry and that it is hot enough. Third ONLY burn refuse that is safe. Do NOT burn plastic or coated cardboard. Do NOT burn furniture or chipboard. These produce carcinogenic chemicals and YOU are likely to be nearest to the conflagration! (Unless you are a villager who lights up and then hides indoors with your double glazing closed, In that case we don't think you'll be reading this anyway, and you deserve all that you get!).

Start by building a fire of wood, get it roaring hot. Then, and only then add your rubbish. This will have the effect of heating up the rubbish so that it burns completely and makes the smoke rise high up into the air. Keep adding rubbish as the fire burns through.

Never put a newspaper under a pile of wet leaves and leave it smoulder. This should be illegal in our opinion! Do it this way and you will dispose of the rubbish cleanly and safely as well as keeping your neighbours happy!



Black smoke drifts past the HorstedKeynes.Com web camera on a warm April evening.

I was interested to see you have headlined this topic on the village website. I was incensed to read in the Parish Magazine that the mobile rubbish collections are being withdrawn. Having been a regular 'contributor' on these visits, I have noticed how well the service is used, with 2 vans usually being provided and rapidly filled up! I fully endorse your views and feel that this will not only lead to an increase in bonfires and 'fly' tipping, but will lead to an increased number of short car journeys for people trying to dispose of their rubbish at the amenity sites.
What I find difficult to understand is that in the Council Tax for 2004-5, the budget for Refuse Collection and Recycling has been increased almost 15% for the current year. Yet we in Horsted Keynes are having one of our most useful services withdrawn!! Our roads are constantly in need of repair and for people without children, one has to ask the question, what do I actually get for paying my Council Tax?
I intend to write to Mid Sussex District Council to express my views on this subject and hope that more support will be forthcoming from HK residents.
Today will be the hottest day of the year so far. For the last two hours my house and garden, and no doubt those of my neighbours in Church Lane/ Leighton Road, have been engulfed in the acrid smoke coming from a neighbour's bonfire. We cannot open any windows. We cannot sit outside. I have a 12 month old baby.
Surely something can be done to shame these people into behaving with consideration for others?


Perhaps now is the time to raise the matter with your Parish Councillor.
You can find them listed here, we leave it up to you.

Any further views from either side are welcome and will be published here if permission is granted.
Please email to . (Change -at- to an @ symbol)

July / August

While this exceptionally hot spell of weather continues may we urge ALL residents to NOT light up their bonfires. Whilst many villagers have heeded our request some others seem to think that it is all right to light their monster in the evening. As those of us who sleep with our windows open will tell you the breeze often drops to nothing at night, so the smoke just hangs in the air until dawn. Villagers who have breathing problems often find the night time far worse than the day and this is the time of the highest number of hospital admissions for breathing problems. Please think of others.

By the way did you know that you can now be fined up to £5000 for burning plastic on your bonfire? It has always been an offence to pollute the air but councils now have the power to prosecute people who burn anything other than "combustible garden and household waste" OR whose fires emit "dark smoke". Some cardboard boxes have a plastic coating which lets off cyanide when burnt! Even if you aren't worried about your neighbours health, your plants won't appreciate a dose of poison.

You are entitled to call out the fire brigade if you feel that a bonfire is dangerous. Thank you from all of us who need to breathe clean air

There have been no updates to this page since last year when we managed to get the subject of inconsiderate bonfire smoke mentioned in the Mid Sussex Times as well as on Meridian TV. Unfortunately with the return of warm weather we again find our enjoyment of outside marred by a few ignorant or just plain selfish villagers who think nothing of lighting up their bonfires with a gallon of petrol and some plastic bags!

Once again we ask you to remember those of us who have problems with their breathing and for whom the smell of bonfire smoke means us having to run indoors with the windows tight shut followed by a trip to the bathroom cabinet to find their inhaler. The ironic thing is we have been told that some people retired here as they thought that the air would be fresher than in town!

Yes we do appreciate that you have to get rid of your rubbish but what we do ask is that you wait until there is a wind to blow the smoke away before starting a bonfire. If you just can't wait until then at least wait until the late evening before lighting up, however many of us enjoy sleeping with their bedroom windows open, and to be honest why should you force us to close them?

If you would like to comment on this page (either way, for or against) then please send an email to the webmasters who will be pleased to include your mail. We are quite happy to respect confidentiality. Our address is; to save spam we always show email addresses like this, just replace -at- with the @ symbol.

     You may have read the piece in the local paper (repeated below) which was inspired by an actual event in the village last weekend. Naturally we all need to get rid of our garden waste, but why oh why do some villagers have to light bonfires of damp material on warm Summer evenings? Perhaps they are afraid of insects invading their garden, perhaps they just don't like to see a mess, either way there are in our village a few people who just don't give a fig for anyone else. They have paid handsomely for their home and now they live in the country they feel that they can do what they like, can't they?  (Residents who have lived here all their lives seem far less likely to offend in this way.)

     Well, yes they can burn their rubbish, there are no bylaws (unfortunately) to stop us lighting up anytime at all (unless the smoke goes over a road when the Road Traffic Acts come into play). The local council help us by paying for the dustcart to visit the car park several times a year but that is not enough. back door

     We know of one case where a bonfire was lit on a Saturday afternoon when a near neighbour was getting married! Nobody complained, they were too busy running round slamming windows and trying to stop the bride's dress smelling like an old chimney when she walked down the aisle. All the beribboned cars were covered in ash and the afternoon would have been ruined if someone (nobody is saying who!) called in the fire brigade! The men from Haywards Heath arrived with sirens blaring and should have been extremely annoyed. However, they looked at the circumstances judged that the fire was "out of control" - the neighbour having lit his fire had retired to the Green Man - so they set to with their hoses. His garden was awash for days and our boozing fire raiser got the message. He has never reoffended and now warns his neighbours before lighting a fire - all without a word being mentioned of the incident - until today!

     This is obviously not the answer for most people but may we as a concerned residents ask that you please consider your neighbours - particularly if there are babies, young children or older people close by - and only "light up" when the wind is set fair to blow the stuff away, preferably wait until Autumn. As a final thought, do not, repeat not, burn any plastic on your bonfire. The fumes even in tiny quantities are carcinogenic, that is proven fact.

     You will be old one day, let's hope when you are your neighbours are considerate and you don't have breathing difficulties to add to your woes. Thank you.

If you would care to comment on the above please do get in touch by email


As well as smoke and air pollution we have recently started to receive comments from all over the country about fireworks being let off without warning at private birthday parties etc.

Perhaps it's time to remind people that it is now very much against the law to let off fireworks even in your own garden after 11pm for much of the year, with a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and 3 months in prison! That is a victory to some peoples eyes and was caused by inconsiderate people who just don't care.

There are some regulars near us who like to let off the loudest bangers they can get at their summer evening parties. The summer months are a time of year when you don't think to keep your pets indoors and naturally very few neighbours think to warn anyone of their intentions. One or two do which is obviously the neighbourly way.

You must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am. The exceptions are: Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight and New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am

Perhaps these really quite severe new penalties are the sort of thing that might be set up for nuisance bonfires? Even an £80 fixed penalty might make some think twice before striking a match.


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