Bonfires? Watch out for hedgehogs!

From Cornwall Council:


Gardeners starting bonfires this spring are being reminded to look out for hedgehogs as part of Hedgehog Awareness Week.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to build bonfires on the day they are to be lit to save hedgehogs and other wildlife from suffering.

Bonfires pose a safety risk to humans but are also a threat to hedgehogs, whose numbers are in rapid decline.

The Fire Service has issued some tips for having a bonfire, either to get rid of garden waste or as part of a celebration, to ensure people, property and wildlife are safe.

It comes after its Social Media Advisor, Emma Matthews, who volunteers for Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue charity in Newquay, highlighted the animals’ plight with her local watch.

The crew decided to include some additional bonfire safety tips to protect hedgehogs:

Bonfire building tips

  • Only burn dry, clean materials. Damp material causes smoke.
  • Build the bonfire away from sheds, fences, trees and buildings.
  • Check there are no cables e.g., telephone wires above the bonfire.
  • Avoid adding petrol or paraffin to get the fire going as it may get out of control.
  • Check bonfires carefully for sleeping hedgehogs and other wildlife before lighting as they like to sleep in them. Lift up the base and listen for any noises, or if possible the entire pile should be re-sited before being lit. If it is not possible to move the bonfire use broom handles to lift from the base of the pile, and shine torches, looking and listening carefully for any signs of life.
  • Light the bonfire from one side only to give any animals the chance to escape.

Bonfire safety tips

Once the bonfire is lit, follow these guidelines:

  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of emergencies. Check out this guide from the unclutterer on how to choose the garden hose that will help you to find the perfect one for your needs.
  • Don’t leave the bonfire unattended.
  • Keep children and pets away from the bonfire.
  • Don’t burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint – many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode causing injury.
  • Spray the embers with water once the bonfire has died down to stop it re-igniting.

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Katy South, Co-Founder and Trustee of Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue, said: “It’s brilliant to be working in partnership with Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service to raise awareness of the possible dangers of bonfires, as they are the perfect home for hedgehogs.

“Although we have very few hedgehogs coming to us as bonfire casualties, this is likely because they’re unable to escape; meaning survival in these situations is very low.

“The hedgehog’s key defence is to curl up into a ball rather than run. We really hope members of the public will help us and more importantly the hedgehogs, by following the advice the firefighters have provided.”

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Sue James, Cornwall’s portfolio holder for the environment and public protection, said: “Hedgehogs are in serious decline and I commend Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service for reminding people to think about protecting their local wildlife when having a bonfire.”

If you are planning any kind of controlled burning such as having a bonfire, please contact Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service to inform them on 0203 162 2240. This helps them avoid sending fire engines to false alarms when they could be responding to a real emergency.

Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue is a registered charity and more information is available on or by ringing 01637831299.

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