St Helens Council has joined Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and other local authorities in issuing an urgent appeal to residents to not light garden bonfires during this global health pandemic.
The appeal comes as the council’s Environmental Health service experiences an upsurge in garden fire complaints from local people across St Helens Borough, reflecting national trends.
Domestic garden bonfires are causing significant smoke nuisance and even health concerns for neighbours, from conditions like asthma and even coronavirus (COVID-19).
COVID-19 can cause significant respiratory problems for people who contract the virus and 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 can cause breathing difficulties to become critically worse.
Councillor Andy Bowden, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, said:
“While we expect this emerging issue is linked with the decision we had to take to halt garden waste collections, we’re asking residents to be considerate to neighbours, who may be bothered by smoke nuisance while they abide by lockdown measures. You could be putting your neighbours’ health at risk, aggravating existing health conditions like asthma. They may even be self-isolating with symptoms of coronavirus, which can cause significant breathing difficulties.
“Please be considerate of your neighbours and don’t light bonfires. Your garden waste can go in your brown bin at this time, be stored for collection when our garden waste service eventually resumes, or you could think about composting garden waste for use in your garden.”
Barbeques are permitted but residents are asked to be considerate of neighbours and keep smoke and noise under control. People should also remember that gatherings in their home or garden with people who do not live with them are currently banned under social distancing rules.
Group Manager for Prevention at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Mark Thomas, said: “Your fire and rescue service remains open. We are working daily with our partners to make sure that our communities are able to stay safe at this challenging time. But we need you to help us to help you.
“We are urging people not to burn any materials that they wouldn’t under normal circumstances – 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 of all our emergency services by staying at home. This is not a holiday period and younger people in particular are urged not to be outdoors where there may be a temptation to engage in anti-social behaviour, such as small fire setting. If there is less pressure on the fire and rescue service, then there is less pressure on all other emergency and health services so we are then able do more to help more. Please ensure you only dial 999 in the event of an emergency – stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS.”
For more tips on composting, visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/recycling.