Hague mayor was convinced New Year's bonfires were safe

New Year's bonfire tower on Scheveningen beach, 31 December 2018
New Year's bonfire tower on Scheveningen beach, 31 December 2018Photo: Vreugdevuur Scheveningen / Facebook

Mayor Pauline Krikke of The Hague was convinced that the New Year's bonfires on the Scheveningen and Duindorp beaches "could safely burn", she said to her city council on Wednesday. A sea of sparks blown from the Scheveningen bonfire caused multiple fires in Scheveningen over New Year's

Krikke came to the conclusion that the bonfires were safe to light after se carefully reviewed all the information and advice and discussed this with the Public Prosecutor and police on December 31st, NU.nl reports. Due to a risk that the wooden bonfire towers, which were higher than expected, could fall, she did expand the safety zone around the towers, she said. 

The mayor said that the role of everyone involved should be carefully examined in the investigation by the Dutch Safety Board. She pointed out that the bonfire in Scheveningen behaved very differently than the one in Duindorp, where there were far fewer sparks. "That is crazy and I'm curious to see how that's possible. The Dutch Safety Board will also look at that."

Krikke also responded to criticism on how she dealt with the bonfire builders. "Some of you think that I'm critical of the builders, but not of myself". She said that the sea of sparks left the builders in shock. "I do not blame the sparks on the builders. I expressed my disappointment about the height being exceeded. That is not to say that the sparks over Scheveningen were a direct consequence of this."

The opposition parties in the city council sharply criticized Krikke's actions in the immediate aftermath of the out-of-hand bonfire. According to them, the mayor immediately blamed the builders, who broke the agreements according to her. The CDA said that the crisis meeting afterwards was meant to calm things down and that accusations then were not appropriate. CU/SGP was also critical. "Krikke's remarks during a press conference were sick and suggestive. In addition, they immediately raised the question of why it was not enforced and her own role therein, but she did not go into that", CU faction leader Pieter Grinwis said.

The coalition parties also want to know exactly what happened, but first want to await the results of the Dutch Safety Board investigation. Among other things, this investigation must show whether the municipality is liable for the incidents and must compensate the damages, or whether the damages are covered by other insurance policies. 

Most parties in The Hague agree that the fact that Scheveningen escaped disaster was mainly thanks to the fire brigade. The majority of the parties also insisted that the municipality must be generous in compensating the Scheveningen residents affected by the fires. So far the municipality of The Hague received 122 reports of damage caused by the sea of sparks, according to the newspaper.