For the first time, the Brussels New Year’s Eve fireworks will be launched from three squares in the centre of the Belgian capital: in front of the Brussels Stock Exchange, on La Monnaie and Brouchère square.
Problem: the city’s fire department, when asked by Brussels’ mayor, gave a negative recommendation due to dangers, including fire hazards, of such celebrations in the densely inhabited area.
“We are very worried. It may very well catch fire. They ask our opinion to us, security professionals, and then they don’t listen to us!” explains a fireman trade union officials in the local press.
The recommendation, purely technical and consultative a firemen spokesperson insists, will not prevent the department to send boots on the ground.
The federal public service, tasked with public health and safety, also gave a negative recommendation, but it too will send ambulances to the area.
Despite the warnings, the mayors’ office nevertheless decided to go along with it. Olivier Mees, director of the compay organising the event on behalf of the city, told Belgium French-speaking daily newspaper La Libre that “It’s almost impossible to obtain a positive recommendation from the fire department for a new event on a new site.”
He insisted, nonetheless, his company would respect the firemen’s advice for crowd management and launching the fireworks.
For Marc Gilbert, the president of the Royal Federation of Firemen Corps in Belgium, interviewed by La Libre newspaper, the non-respect of the fire department’s recommendation is almost unseen of in his experience. It can also have dire consequences “the responsibility lies with the mayor (…) he can override the recommendation. But this means that, if there are dead or wounded, and it transpires that the negative fire bridage report, written after a risks analysis [on fire hazard, crowd safety and emergency services access], was not respected, then the mayor will be responsible.” Gilbert also calls for the recommendations to be binding and no longer merely consultative.
Photo credit CC BY SA Flickr/Swalophoto