South Africa — The fire protection association (FPA) was launched in Thabazimbi, Limpopo, on Monday to help communities prevent and fight fires, in particular forest and veld fires.
Members of the association include landowners who are at risk of veld fires on their properties.
Provincial spokesman for the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), Leah Matlala said: “The FPA will be tasked with ensuring contingency plans are in place to fight veld fires and emergency services are available to take care of the knock-on effects.”
She said the National Veld and Forest Fire Act of 1998 stipulated that DWAF had an obligation to help all municipalities and landowners to form FPAs.
The Act provides for the control, management and prevention of mountain, forest and veld fires.
It also allows fire control committees to be more effective and provides training and support for rural communities in the management of veld fires.
“Thabazimbi is a municipality that is fully prepared and willing to spread awareness about veldfire management,” said Matlala.
It is an offence to light fires in prohibited areas of Mpumalanga, as well as to smoke cigarettes where smoking is forbidden.
Jimmy Masombuka, spokesman for the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, said people who ignored the warnings could face up to two years in jail.
In 2003, some parts of the province were declared disaster areas when a series of devastating bush fires destroyed close to 40 000 hectares of land valued at almost R200 million.
The South African government established the Working on Fire programme to manage uncontrolled fires across the country by training a group of people specifically to prevent and fight fires.
It was through the hard work of the Working on Fire team that 22 people were rescued from near death a few years ago after a veld fire blazed out of control.
In Mpumalanga, there are now 10 teams with 22-firefighters each who are on alert for anywildfires.
In November last year government embarked on a massive campaign to highlight to dangers of veld fires.
The campaign called FireWire was aimed at reducing the human, economic and environmental damage caused when people start fires which burn out of control.
According to statistics more than 90 percent of these fires are started by people.