New Year's bonfires in Scheveningen must change fundamentally: Dutch Safety Board

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

The organization of New Year's bonfires on the beaches in Scheveningen and Duindorp must change fundamentally, because the builders of the bonfires do not comply with agreements made with the municipality of The Hague, the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) said in a report. The OVV investigated the bonfires tradition after the Scheveningen bonfire got out of hand this past New Year's

The bonfires in Scheveningen and Duindorp have grown to a point they must be considered public events “with major safety risks,” the OVV said in a statement. The agency stopped short of saying the events had grown out of control, but did acknowledge that the 2018-2019 Scheveningen bonfire “caused several [additional] fires and caused a great deal of unrest among the public and local residents.”

According to the Safety Board the bonfire in Scheveingen was 45 meters high - 10 meters higher than agreed with the municipality. Barrels of diesel fuel was used to quickly ignite the tower of wood. The size and shape of the structure contributed to the dangerous nature of the fire. The intense fire created an air pressure effect where "large and small pieces of wood came away from the pile", the OVV said. A strong westerly wind blew these pieces of wood over Scheveningen, causing dozens of fires and the ensuing evacuations. 

The municipality of The Hague was aware that the bonfires did not comply with the agreements made, but did nothing against it. The agreements made with the builders of the bonfires about matters like the tower's maximum size and construction method were also not put in writing, and no permit was issued for the bonfires. According to the Safety Board, the builders, the emergency services and the municipality of The Hague must take more responsibility for the safety of local residents, the public and the builders themselves.

The OVV also condemned those involved for not learning from past mistakes. The risks of flames spreading were not considered, even after the same thing happened during the bonfire a year earlier.