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Summary of the Veld and Forest Fire Act No. 101 of 1998.

CHAPTER 2 FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATIONS

Owners may form a fire protection association for the purpose of predicting, preventing, managing and extinguishing veld and forest fires and apply for it’s registration as a fire protection association in terms of the act.

A fire protection association may be formed in an area which has:-

Regular veldfires; or

  • A relatively uniform risk of veldfire; or
  • Relatively uniform climatic conditions; or
  • Relatively uniform types of forest or vegetation.

If no fire protection association has been formed within one year after the act has come into effect, the Minister may call for the formation a fire protection association.

The Minister may recognize and register as a fire protection association:-

  • A fire control committee or a regional fire control committee;
  • A conservation committee.
  • A catchment management agency.
  • Any nature conservancy.
  • A fire protection committee.
  • A disaster management agency.
  • Any voluntary association which has as one of its objects the prevention and combating of veldfires.

Only one fire protection fire protection association may be registered in respect of an area.

All owners in an area for which a fire protection association has been registered have a right to join.

Municipalities falling within the area of a fire protection association must join the association.

The owners in respect of State land must join any fire protection association registered in the area in which the land lies.

Nothing in the act prevents the formation of an umbrella association.

A fire protection association must elect a fire protection officer.

Where a municipality is member and has a service, or where a designated service is a member, the chief fire officer is the fire protection officer.

A fire protection officer may delegate his or her powers in terms of this act, except the powers of arrest, search and seizure.

The Minister may give a loan, grant or other assistance.

CHAPTER 3 FIRE DANGER RATING.

The Minister must prepare and maintain on a continuous basis a fire danger rating system for the entire country in consultation with:-

  • The South African Weather Bureau; and
  • Fire protection associations.

The country may be divided into separate regions which have a uniform fire danger.

The Minister must communicate the rating to the fire protection associations in the region.

The Minister must publish warnings when the fire danger rating is high in any region. This must be published in newspapers and three television channels.

When the minister has published a warning, no person may light, use or maintain a fire in the open air in the region where the fire danger is high.

CHAPTER 4 VELDFIRE PREVENTION THROUGH FIREBREAKS.

Every owner on whose land a veldfire may start or burn or from whose land it may spread must prepare and maintain a firebreak on his side of the boundary between his or her land and adjoining land.

Neighbors must determine a mutually agreeable date or dates for burning of firebreaks and inform the fire protection association, if any.

  • A owner may not burn a firebreak if;
  • A fire protection association objects;
  • A warning has been published;
  • The conditions are not conducive to burning.

Owners of adjoining land may agree to position a common firebreak away from the boundary.

Owners must ensure that, with due regard to the weather, climate, terrain and vegetation of the area:-

  • It is wide enough and long enough to have a reasonable chance of preventing a veldfire from spreading to or from neighboring land;
  • It does not cause soil erosion; and
  • It is reasonably free of flammable material capable of carrying a veldfire across it.

The Minister may exempt any owner or group of owners from the duty to prepare and maintain a firebreakfor good reason.

CHAPTER 5 FIRE FIGHTING

Every owner on whose land a veldfire may start or burn or from whose land it may spread must:-

  • Have such equipment, protective clothing and trained personnel for extinguishing fires.
  • Ensure that in his absence responsible persons are present on or near his or her land.

Any owner who has reason to believe that a fire on his or her land or the land of an adjoining owner may endanger life, property or the environment, must immediately:-

  • Notify the fire protection officer.
  • The owners of adjoining land.
  • Do everything in his power to stop the spread of the fire.

CHAPTER 7 OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

When the Minister has published a warning of a high fire danger, any person who lights a fire in the open air will be guilty of a first category offence. (Fine and or imprisonment of up to two years).

Any owner, occupier or person in control of land on which a fire occurs who fails to take reasonable steps to extinguish the fire or to confine it to that land or to prevent it from causing damage to property on adjoining land, is guilty of a first category offence. (Fine and or imprisonment of up to two years).

Leaves a fire which he has lit, unattended, is guilty of a second category offence. (Fine and or imprisonment of up to one year).

Fails to prepare a fire break, give notice of intention to burn a firebreak and fails to meet the standard of readiness for fire fighting is guilty of a second category offence. (Fine and or imprisonment of up to one year).

CHAPTER 9 PRESUMPTION OF NEGLIGENCE

If a landowner is a member of a fire protection association he will be presumed innocent of negligence until proven guilty.