INCONSIDERATE residents are being told not to light bonfires following an alarming rise in the number of garden fires.

Crews from the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service attended 55 garden fires in March, compared to just 28 in the same month in the previous TWO years.

This means there was almost a 100 per cent increase in outdoor fires last month, of which most were caused by bonfires burning out of control.

Two of these incidents came in the same week in Tendring, when a barn went up in flames in Pilcox Hall Lane, and then an outbuilding, in Coopers Lane, Clacton.

Both were caused by incinerator fires which got out of control which the service worries could continue to be a problem during the coronavirus lockdown period.

Andrea McAllister, head of community safety, said: “With people spending more time at home and in their garden, and with recycling centres closed, it’s no surprise to see an increase in garden fires.

“But not only can a garden fire destroy your outdoor space, it can quickly spread to your house and even neighbouring properties.

“We strongly advise people to avoid them if they can.

“Having a fire in your garden is rarely necessary or a good idea, It’s not worth taking the risk.”

“If you must have one, never use accelerants to light it and be sure to keep the fire small and away from your house, shed and fence.”

Some councils across the county have now urged residents to temporarily refrain from starting bonfires while people are confined to their houses.

If smoke becomes a statutory nuisance, councils can take enforcement action which can result in fire starters being slapped with a fine of up to £5,000.

Colchester Council has called on residents to be more considerate of their own health and neighbours who may have respiratory issues which could be worsened by the toxic smoke.

Councillor Martin Goss, portfolio holder for waste, environment and transportation, said: “Over the last few weeks, we have seen communities come together to help and support our most vulnerable residents.“We’re asking if people could support their neighbours by not lighting bonfires while the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

“Smoke can cause a risk to people’s health, so avoiding fires will reduce the chance of people having their airways affected and avoid further burden on the NHS.

“We know it’s inconvenient with tips closed and recycling collections paused to continue to provide essential services.

“I hope people can work with us on this. and please hold onto their garden waste or use a home composting system until we are able to start collecting again.”

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