Continuing the topic of the dangers of New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany, it’s been reported that a fire started by some kind of fireworks at Krefeld Zoo burnt down the Monkey House and killed about 30 animals, including orang-utans, gorillas and a chimpanzee (two chimpanzees survived).
The later reports say that the fire was started by three women, a 60-year-old woman from Krefeld and her two daughters, who have handed themselves in. They set off sky lanterns (Himmelslaternen) which they had bought on the internet. They didn’t know these were banned. They handed themselves in and face a potential penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.
The offence is described in the UK press as negligent arson. Perhaps one might say ‘starting a fire by negligence’, since the word ‘arson’ in English usage and law really suggests deliberate action. I have lose my copy of Bohlander’s Principles of Criminal Law, despite it being one of my go-to books, so all I have is a photocopy of the very old book on Criminal Law by E. J. Cohn – still very useful, even though the law has changed a bit since then.
Lighting sky lanterns has been forbidden (verboten) since 2009. But they can be bought. It seems a matter for the Länder to each decide whether they may be used with a permit. Their danger is that once lit, the person releasing them cannot control where they fly (depends on wind and other factors) or how long they burn, unlike in the case of a rocket. Unheilsbringer Himmelslaterne: Verboten, aber im Verkauf.