The period November to April is generally regarded as the
fire season in the Western Cape. Fires cause devastation and
cost the economy millions each year.
Duty of the landowner
Every landowner has a duty in terms of the National Veld and
Forest Fire Act, 1998 firstly, to prevent and combat veld,
forest and mountain fires and secondly, to stop fire spreading
from their land onto adjoining land. To do this the landowner
must, by law, prepare and maintain firebreaks, and have such
equipment, protective clothing and trained personnel reasonably
required in the circumstances. Firebreaks must meet the
requirements specified in the Act.
Failure to comply with the provisions is an offence.
Section 34 of the Act: Presumption of negligence
Section 34 states that "if a person who brings civil
proceedings proves that he or she suffered loss from a veldfire
which – the defendant caused; or started on or spread
from land owned by the defendant, the defendant is presumed to
have been negligent in relation to the veldfire until the
contrary is proved, unless the defendant is a member of a fire
protection association in the area where the fire
Incentives to comply
An important tool to assist landowners is to form and become
a member of a Fire Protection Association (FPA) in terms of the
Act. These FPAs must be registered.
The objectives of an FPA are predicting, preventing,
managing and extinguishing veldfires.
The important benefit for FPA members is that the
presumption of negligence created by section 34 does not
operate against them.
A municipality or owner of state land must become a member
of any FPA registered in an area controlled by the municipality
or in which state land is situated. These members will often
provide additional expertise to an FPA in reaching the
FPAs are empowered to develop a fire management strategy,
make rules that bind its members, train its members in fire
fighting, and inform its members of technological advances
regarding fire prevention and suppression equipment.
The very nature of an FPA should encourage better
communication and collaborative effort between landowners.
FPA must make rules to provide for minimum standards to be
maintained by members regarding veldfire prevention and
readiness for fire fighting and controlled burning to reduce
the fire danger.
An FPA may make rules regarding the burning of firebreaks
differing from those prescribed by law provided these rules are
approved by the Minister.
Two or more FPAs may enter into agreements to provide
assistance in fighting and extinguishing fires. These
agreements may make provision for compensation to be paid for
We suggest that members of FPAs approach their insurers to
negotiate more favourable premium rates and lower excesses.
The content of this article is intended to provide a
general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should
be sought about your specific circumstances.
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