Veld fires and your role as landowners

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With summer on the way and things heating up already, fires are a huge risk to everyone in our community. This is especially true of the farmers that have a large area to police and maintain.

Did you know there is a National Veld and Forest Fire Act? The National Veld and Forest Fire Act No.  101 of 1998 (”the Act”) is a legislative tool to help farm owners prevent potential financial and infrastructure losses as a result of fire. The definition of an “owner” in the Act includes a lessee or other person who controls the land in question.

This Act has guidelines on how to create an FPA or Fire Protection Association for the local communities and rural farmlands.

The advantages of being a member of an FPA are that Institutions like RSA Agri, and insurance companies support, and in some cases require active participation in an FPA. IPW, GLOBALGAP and HACCP accreditations require membership.

One of the advantages of being a member of an FPA is that you are presumed not negligent in civil proceedings for veldfires that started on, or spread from your property, in terms of section 34 of the Act.

You can download a summarised copy of the act here, or you can get a more comprehensive version here.

WHY FORM AN FPA?

Co-operation among rural owners and managers of land is required for the effective management and
prevention of veldfires. Government cannot take on the duties and responsibilities of landowners for fire
protection.

The Act places this responsibility on landowners

  • No presumption of negligence in civil claims for damage where a fire from the member’s land causes damage or loss to another person (section 34).
  • The benefits of co-operation in preventing and combating veldfires through the institution of the FPA, within the framework of an agreed veldfire management strategy.
  • The cost saving that comes from avoiding duplication with for example disaster management plans and agricultural conservation programmes.
  • The protection that comes from the enforceable rules of the FPA, as established in its constitution.
  • The fact that FPA rules are enforceable in the FPA area protects members from the actions of non-members.
  • Advice and assistance to members in meeting the statutory requirements for readiness for firefighting, including skills development.
  • The registered Fire Protection Officers (FPO) of an FPA receives powers to enforce the Act and FPA rules.
  • Improved communication among members, for example, of fire hazard conditions.
  • Improved communication between members and the Minister and other role players.
  • Free access to research commissioned by the Minister on the prevention and combating of veldfires and on the use of controlled fire in sustainable forest management.
  • Possible relief from certain prevention measures, for example, the duty to create and maintain firebreaks, depending on the contents of the FPA’s veldfire management strategy.
  • The overall benefits of progressive building of capacity within the FPA and thus among its members, with overall reduction in the risks of veldfires.
  • The possibility of assistance from the Minister.
  • Possible decreased insurance premiums because the risk of veldfire is less.
  • Improved powers of negotiation by virtue of being a member of a group of owners.

We should all do our part this summer to keep our community and land fire safe!