EMERGENCY services have issued an urgent warning for people to be sensible ahead of a ‘very different’ bonfire period - after youngsters were apparently filmed hurling fireworks at each other.

The shocking footage was taken at Milton Forge playing fields between Elsecar and Hoyland on Sunday evening, and appears to show a large group of youngsters - one of which, thought to be aged 19 or 20, is chasing another while throwing fireworks.

Hoyland officers - who called the footage ‘concerning’ - arrived at around 5.30pm, but a spokesperson said searches were unsuccessful.

The incident serves as a reminder to the public of the dangers of unsafe sale and use of fireworks, ahead of the force’s annual ‘Operation Dark Nights’ - a joint operation alongside South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and Barnsley Council.

It’s an offence to sell fireworks and sparklers to under 18s, and it’s illegal for under 18s to possess fireworks in a public place.

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The period from the end of October through November is typically the busiest in the year for emergency services, and the operation is set on targeting anti-social behaviour hotspots and premises which may sell alcohol and fireworks to youngsters.

This month alone, South Yorkshire Police have received 189 calls for incidents relating to fireworks. Barnsley district commander and silver commander for Operation Dark Nights, Chief Superintendent Sarah Poolman, said: “We are already seeing an increase in calls relating to antisocial behaviour involving fireworks several weeks earlier than normal.

“Our officers and partners in the other emergency services are already working in challenging and unprecedented times and valuable resources are being wasted responding to youths in possession of fireworks.

“I am urging young people not to engage in this dangerous behaviour and encouraging parents to speak to their children about the dangers of fireworks and to ensure they are not putting people’s lives and property at risk.

“If your child is found in possession of a firework and they are under the age of 16, you will be liable and will face a fine.

“We are increasing our evening patrols around the areas affected and those found with fireworks will be arrested. I would also like to remind businesses selling pyrotechnics that selling them to under 18s is illegal and you will be prosecuted. If anyone witnesses incidents involving fireworks and there is an immediate threat to people’s safety please call 999, for non-emergencies please call 101 or use the online reporting form.”

Emergency services traditionally visit schools as part of the operation - but with this not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions, firefighters and police have instead filmed informational videos to be shown in classrooms.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue station manager Steve Jones said it was important people didn’t use Bonfire Night as an ‘excuse to let our guards down’.

“We know how much people look forward to Halloween and the bonfire period, and clearly we don’t want to spoil the party after a tough year, but it’s so important that people stay safe,” he said.

“With big, organised bonfire and firework displays being cancelled across the county, we expect people will be tempted to do their own.

“This is fine, but we do ask that people be sensible and take note of our advice around this.

“Firstly, we really don’t want people having garden bonfires.

“They spread so easily and tie up our resources.

“However, if you must have one, keep it away from trees, sheds and fences, and never use petrol or other accelerants to get it going.

“Secondly, if you’re going to use fireworks, only use genuine ones, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and, please, be sensible.

“Also, remember there are laws around when you can and can’t set them off.”