Land users and farmers are advised to exercise extreme caution to prevent veld fires during winter. Wildfires are a regular occurrence in South Africa. Every year during the fire season, the news contains stories of wildfires sweeping through the country.
Veld fires bring much devastation to communities in terms of loss of livelihood, livestock, infrastructure and human lives. Everyone must be wise when dealing with open fires and when operating machinery. The dryness of the vegetation coupled with the effect of winds creates perfect conditions for runaway veld fires.
During winter, veld fires are a serious threat to the agricultural sector, therefore farmers are urged to take note of risk-reduction measures by ensuring that fire equipment is, at all times, easily accessible and in good condition.
South Africa has large grasslands, savannah and forests and is, particularly, fire prone since all the elements and sources for fire ignition and spread of veld fires are there.
The National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998 (Act No.101 of 1998) provides a statutory obligation on all landowners to develop firebreaks and places an onus on landowners to be prepared and equipped to fight a fire and to take all reasonable steps to stop the spread of fire.
Chapter 2 of the Act regulates the establishment, registration, duties and functioning of fire protection associations (FPA’s). These associations must deal with all aspects of veld fires, such as the prevention and firefighting, where farmers can play an active role in managing and planning of fire management as a collective, with co-ownership of the risk management process.
It has been noted that since the promulgation of the Act, a concerted effort has been made by private landowners to comply with the Act. For this, they must be congratulated. However, all farmers are encouraged, especially in areas where veld fires are almost a yearly occurrence, to participate fully in the FPA’s, where the overall risk would be managed properly and it would enable all to mitigate the general risk of fire spread.