South Africa — Veld fires are a common sight in the winter months and if you are found having started a fire you can be arrested or fined.
With winter fast approaching and grass getting drier, veld fires become more and more common.
The NEWS spoke to the commanding officer of the West Rand District Municipalitys Emergency Services, Gerhardt Nieuwoudt regarding veld fires.
Nieuwoudt says, “The only advantage to veld and grass fires is when it is properly controlled and part of environmental planning. Some game farms have a strategy in place that is monitored and they do block burns on a five-year basis.
“Veld and grass fires are dangerous and is a major cause of houses and structures burning down.
“Most veld and grass fires are started by people unaware of what the danger is. Children along bus routes make fire to get warm in the morning and when the bus comes they leave those small fires unattended. People also burn rubbish dumps and the fire runs away with them. Fire breaks are made in strong windy conditions and cant be controlled.
“People prevent veld fires by following the laws as set in the National Veld and Forest Fire Act. Join the Fire Protection Association (FPA) in your area and become part of their strategy and management. Keep your yard/farm clean and cut/burn/plough/scrape fire breaks.
“Then all must take the following chapter of the act into consideration because certain people think they are above the law and dont have to adhere to the act.”
Chapter seven of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act 1998 says;
Lighting, using or maintaining a fire in the open air when the fire danger rating is high [contravention of section 10(2)]
Failing to take reasonable steps to extinguish a fire or prevent it from causing damage to neighbouring property, in the case of the owner of his or her agent
First conviction: fine or imprisonment for a period of up to two years, or both.
Leaving a fire before it is extinguished
Lighting, using or maintaining a fire that spreads
Throwing or dropping something, for example a burning match, thereby causing to start a fire that spreads and causes damage
Lighting a fire in a road reserve other than in a fireplace
Lighting a fire in a road reserve for a purpose other than the burning of a firebreak
Smoking when smoking is by notice prohibited
Failing to prepare a firebreak when obliged to do so
Failing to give intention to burn a firebreak (14 day notice)
Burning a firebreak when an FPA has objected
Failing to inform neighbours of a threatening fire
Refusing to take orders from a fire protection officer (FPO) or forest officer
Hindering or obstructing fire fighting
First conviction: fine or imprisonment for a period of up to one year, or both.
Second conviction: fine or imprisonment for a period of up to two years, or both.
Preventing an FPO, fire officer or police officer from entering, searching, seizing or arresting
Interfering with an FPO, fire officer or police officer when any of these are entering, searching, seizing or arresting
First conviction: fine or community service (which must if possible benefit the environment) for a period of up to six months, or both. Second conviction: fine or imprisonment for a period of up to one year, or both.
“In an event of a veld fire, residents must phone the fire protection association (FPA) member in your area to assist or phone 107/ 011 951 3000 and report the fire. Stay clear of the fire and evacuate if needed.
“Please note that if you are not a member of a FPA you will have to pay for service rendered. There are also a fire danger index and one can not make fire breaks when the danger is high or when the FPO decides it is not safe to do so,” concludes Nieuwoudt.