“Is such a bottle bomb wise, do you think?”


Children in De Tandem elementary school receive safety glasses from the municipality after the fireworks display.Picture Marcel van den Bergh / de Volkskrant

The fireworks lesson in Year 8 at Dalton primary school De Tandem in Leidschendam is halfway through when a boy at the back of the class has an urgent question: ‘Suppose you put category 1 and 2 fireworks together and make them into a kind of bottle bomb. , is it allowed?’ Police officer Mandy Abath, who teaches with a colleague from the fire service, responds in turn with a question: ‘Is it wise, do you think?’ The boy laughs knowingly.

This is exactly what the municipality wants to achieve with the fireworks lessons that will be offered this month to more than 275 students at various primary schools in Leidschendam and Voorburg: awareness of the dangers of fireworks.

This is badly needed, the figures published annually on firework accidents show. Especially young people under the age of 20 end up at the general practitioner or the emergency room. Some are very young: last weekend a 9-year-old boy from Oss in Brabant was seriously injured while playing with his brother with found fireworks.

Playground

In the fireworks class, attention is not only paid to the dangers of setting off, but also to the rules and the difference between legal and illegal fireworks. There is some uncertainty about that, as is evident when 12-year-old Tommy cheerfully tells us that every year he travels to Belgium or Germany with his parents to stock up on Thunderkings and other heavy weapons. When Officer Abath asks the class who thinks it’s illegal, only a few fingers go up.

The subject is very much alive, according to Esther Kuijper, group 8 teacher at De Tandem. ‘Especially the boys are completely drunk on it.’ They find it very exciting, she notes, but at this age they are also susceptible to the possible consequences. “Last year, a nearby playground went up in flames. They are really impressed with that. They experience it as a sin’.

Unlike in some municipalities, such as Amsterdam, Heemstede, Haarlem and Bloemendaal, there is no general fireworks ban in Leidschendam-Voorburg. According to a spokesman for the municipality, the reports the police have received are mainly about ‘fireworks and loud bangs fired too soon’. After the turn of the year, there are reports of damage to road signs, road surfaces, playground equipment, park benches and waste containers and bins.

Container

The 16-year-old Appie knows all about that. During a break at a location in mboRijnland, where he is training to become a service worker, he tells with undisguised pride how he shoots around 400 euros of illegally bought nitrates into the air every year. That a bin sometimes breaks is part of the kick. “Anything that’s forbidden is extra tempting, you know,” he says. ‘We also often blow them off in a sewer pit, so that a sick echo is created.’

They choose the location carefully. No busy residential areas, but secluded places. ‘Because then other people are not in danger,’ says Appie. An additional benefit: the police are less likely to be reported.

Illegal fireworks are also popular with a group of girls on the other side of the road, where a suspicious smell of sulfur is coming from a garbage can. “Every year I drive to Belgium with my parents to pick it up,” says 14-year-old Emma, ​​who is training to be an accountant. ‘I grew up with it. That’s part of it, right? The higher the bangs, the better. With such a soft thing, you don’t feel any tension at all’.

Apology letter

Minors who cause destruction with fireworks can expect a visit to the Halt office. ‘Today, community service usually no longer consists of paperwork, but of writing an apology letter to the municipality and a good conversation,’ says agent Mandy Abath after the fireworks. ‘That bit of awareness is important.’ For this reason, it is also preferable to avoid issuing a fine. ‘Parents pay for it, children learn nothing from it.’

In class, three students talk about their favorite subject: fireworks. “It’s fun to experiment with,” says Mijntje (11). ‘Recently I had a cracking pea fight with my big brother. We sometimes put fireworks in a sandbox and see what happens. If it turns black, e.g. Which, by the way, is not the case’.

Abel is also dragged along by his older brothers, who are over twenty, during the fireworks display. New Year’s Eve is the absolute highlight. ‘You’re really tired until midnight, but then you can finally set off the fireworks and you’re wide awake straight away. Last year we continued until

‘Really weird’

To his surprise, Abel learned precisely during the fireworks lessons that ‘children’s fireworks’ such as popsicles and sparklers can only be set off from the age of 12.

‘Really strange’, 11-year-old Fenna also thinks. “When I was two, I was already outside with starfire.” The girl with the blonde ponytail loves fireworks, unlike her mother, who can’t stand loud bangs, and her dog, “who gets totally freaked out.” She finds one thing even more important during the turn of the year: the oil bun. ‘Do you want to write in the newspaper that everyone must eat a lot of oil balls?’

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