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Health warning over smoke from bonfires

Wirral Council has joined Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service in issuing an urgent appeal for residents to not light bonfires or barbecues during this global health pandemic.

Coronavirus (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.

“This is a life or death issue…  my family is living it. I do not want others to be in this situation needlessly,”

That was what one resident wrote to the council’s environmental health team this week. For those affected by this virus and their relatives, that is their reality and that is why it is a message that the community should not and cannot ignore at this time.

Authorities have limited powers to take action against one-off, domestic bonfires, so instead the onus has to be upon residents themselves showing consideration for neighbours who may be fighting to recover from the effects of COVID-19 by not lighting fires at all.

Everyone understands that with recycling centres closed and kerbside garden waste collections and bulk waste collections suspended people will generate extra waste at this time. However, the priority is to maintain collections of green and grey bins at this time.

For garden waste, residents should consider investing in a home composter. Alternately, garden waste and other waste that won’t go off can be bagged and/or stored for disposal once restrictions are lifted.

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.”