The Act provides for FPAs for two reasons:
- Veldfires often become emergencies because they threaten life and assets on the property where they have started, or when they spread, or threaten to spread, beyond the boundaries of any one property, and
- Require co-operation to manage the conditions that determine their occurrence, to prevent and control veldfires, and to use controlled burning for environmental and other purposes. Effective management of veld-fires requires organisational structure, strategy, plans, information, networks, skills, and equipment that can seldom be provided adequately by any one landowner alone. Also, government cannot take on the duties and responsibilities of landowners for fire protection. The Act places this responsibility on the owner, where it belongs (Chapters 4 and 5). The Act intends that FPAs should be voluntary, not only because of the right to freedom of association, but also be-cause landowners themselves need to make firm commitments to co-operation by their own joint initiatives. On the other hand, this provision in the Act does place a duty on government to effectively promote and support FPAs, including financially where this is justified.
Membership of an FPA brings several advantages, directly to the member as well as through the capabilities of the FPA itself. These include:
- 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(1)(b) of the Act).
- 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 fire fighting, including skills development.
- The registered fire protection officer (FPO) of an FPA receives powers to enforce the Act and FPA rules.
- Improved communication among members, for example, of fire hazard conditions. FDI. This is done through e-mail and SMS messages.
- 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. Most insurers will not pay out if not a member of an FPA.
- Improved powers of negotiation by virtue of being a member of a group of owners.
- Co-operation among rural owners and managers of land is required for the effective management of veldfires.The Act provides a framework for a consistent way for owners to organise and collaborate in veldfire management.
- Rural landowners need to have a collective self-sufficiency to manage veldfires because it is too costly for government to provide these services.
- Improved communication between FPA members.
- Stronger negotiation powers by virtue of being part of an organised group.
- Localized weather data and Fire Danger Index (FDI) notifications and predictions.
- Possibility of control room to monitor and assist with dispatch to veldfires.
Contract with Working on Fire (WoF) for ground crews and aerial fire fighting. In practice this means:
- FPA members get first call on the WoF ground crew (team of 24 fire dedicated fighters). The FPA will have free use of the allocated team and any other WoF crews available for fire suppression. The FPA member will however be responsible for subsidized variable costs. This includes the payment for rations of the fire crews, whom are exceeding an eight hour shift at R40.00 per person per day. The payment of WoF transport costs, supervision if required, equipment maintenance and consumables as well as a small admin fee. (Non-members will pay actual costs.)
- The FPA will have free use of the allocated WoF crew, for a period of 40 working days outside the fire season for fire protection measures. The FPA member will be responsible for subsidized variable costs as per above paragraph. This will be utilized mainly for strategic fire belts and must be arranged through the FPO.
- The FPA members get first call on the WoF fire fighting helicopter on standby. Standby costs 100% covered by national government.
Presumption of negligence
34. (1) If a person who brings civil proceedings proves that he or she suffered loss from a veldfire which—
(a) the defendant caused; or
(b) 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 occurred.