INTRODUCTION TO FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATIONS (FPAs)
Reasons for FPAs
- 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.
Advantages of registered FPAs
- Decreased risk of veldfires.
- Promotion of co-operation in managing veldfires.
- No presumption of negligence in civil claims.
- Cost saving through sharing of services.
- Advice and assistance to members from government and other services.
- Possible assistance from the Minister.
- Potential financial support from local government.
- Establishment of reasonable norms and standards for veldfire management in an area by means of FPA rules.
- Establishment of a fair and equitable basis for managing and sharing risk through an FPA's business plan.
- Powers under the Act conferred on registered fire protection officers (FPOs).
- Support from umbrella FPAs where these exist.
- Improved communication between FPA members.
- Improved communication between members and the Minister and other roleplayers.
- Provision of possible relief from certain prevention measures, for example, the duty to create and maintain firebreaks.
- Stronger negotiation powers by virtue of being part of an organised group.
- Possibility of reduced insurance premiums.
Costs of forming and running an FPA
- The costs of forming and running an FPA include:
- Time needed for meetings to set up and run the FPA.
- Having to report to the Minister on fire statistics and provide information for the fire danger rating system.
- Financial contributions to running costs of the FPA:
- salary of the FPO and his or her staff
- office expenses
- information and communication
- travelling expenses
- contributions to umbrella FPAs.
- Members' commitment to keeping the FPA running properly, for example, keeping a register of members, informing members of the current fire danger rating, and reporting on fires.
Costs versus benefits
When may an FPA be formed?
- An FPA should not be formed where its costs will be greater than the benefits it provides to members (FPAs should be cost-beneficial).
- FPAs should be established in areas where the hazard of veldfires justifies the costs of organising and maintaining the FPA.
- The justifiable level of hazard must be judged locally. Establishing an FPA could be cost-beneficial in the following situations:
- where there is a hazard of veldfires on the urban edge of a city or a town
- where forest plantations are exposed to wildfires
- where emergent stock farmers are exposed to wildfires.
Section 3 of the Act says any group of owners who wish to co-operate to predict, prevent, manage and extinguish veldfires may form an FPA.
Who is an "owner"?
“Owner” has its common law meaning and includes:
- any landowner with a title deed to property
- lessees who lease DWAF commercial plantations
- a person who rents land from the owner
- any person controlling land under a contract
- a lease is a type of contract
- any person controlling land under a law
- for example, managers of State forests who control the land under the National Forests Act
- any person controlling land under a will
- for example, where someone has the right to control land until she dies, at which point it will go to the heir
- any person controlling land under an order of the High Court
- the executive body of a community set up under its constitution, law or custom
- a Minister or person authorised by him/her where the land is State land and it is not controlled by someone else
- a member of the executive council or a person authorised by him/her where the land is provincial land and is not controlled by someone else
- the chief executive officer of any local authority or a person authorised by him/her.
What about communities?
- Land controlled by a community could be private land (where the community owns it), or State land held in trust.
- Most land controlled by communities is held in trust by the State or the Ingonyama Trust.
- The Act states that where land is controlled by a community, regardless of the ownership of the land, the executive body of that community is the owner.
- The executive body can exist in terms of:
- its constitution (where the community has formed a communal property association and owns the land)
- any law (for example, where a tribal authority was appointed by law) or
- custom or customary law (where a chief or headman and the tribal elders may control the land)
- Several different communites may control portions of a single piece of State land held in trust.
- Each community should be represented in the FPA by its executive body.
What about State land?
Only where State land is not controlled by:
will the Minister of the government department or member of the provincial executive council exercising control over the land, or a person authorised by him or her, need to be represented on the FPA.
- a person contemplated in s2(1)(xiii)(a) (a title deed holder, lessee, or person controlling the land in terms of a contract, will, law or order of the High Court) or
- a community
Membership of FPAs is voluntary for most owners
- Landowners can choose whether to join the FPA or not.
- This is because:
- The right to freedom of association in the Constitution must be upheld.
- Landowners themselves need to make firm commitments to co-operate through FPAs.
Who is compelled to join an FPA?
- The owners of:
must join an FPA if one forms in their area.
- State land
- municipal land where there is a fire service
- State land means:
- national or provincial land
- land held in trust for communities by the Minister of Land Affairs or the Ingonyama Trust
- excluding municipal land
Boundaries of FPAs
- Section 3: The area where an FPA is formed should be relatively uniform in terms of:
- having regular veldfires or
- its veldfire risk or
- its climatic conditions or
- its forest types or other vegetation
- Form FPAs only where they are definitely needed.
- The area of an FPA should be optimum, that is, not too big to be able to fulfil duties and not too small to justify the costs involved.
- The Act leaves this matter open – each case must be judged on its own circumstances.
- An FPA may usefully correspond with one or more local municipalities (category B).
- But there may be cases where an FPA would for good reasons include only part of the area of a local municipality.
Prioritisation of FPAs
- DWAF has established the framework for priorities in the country, by using a “risk assessment” modelling approach that ranks district municipalities according to the overall fire risk in each district.
- This risk assessment informs the work of the national, provincial and local disaster management centres (DMCs).
- This assessment guides Fire Advisors in their communication with local initiators of FPAs:
- district DMCs
- fire services (chief fire officers - CFOs)
- emerging umbrella FPAs
- local leaders
- nature conservation authorities
- Fire Advisors advise initiators on the priorities for their districts and the optimum configuration for FPAs in their districts.
Where no FPA has been formed
- The Minister may intervene when no FPA has been formed in an area in which s/he is of the opinion one should be formed.
- The Minister may call a meeting to discuss setting up an FPA and to establish what kind of support is required.
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