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
  • 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.
When may an FPA be formed?
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
    • 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:
  • 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
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.

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:
    • State land
    • municipal land where there is a fire service
    must join an FPA if one forms in their area.
  • 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.

Related resources


Note: Open these files by clicking on an icon. You can save them to your hard drive by going 'save as' from the file menu. Alternatively, right click on an icon and choose 'save as' or 'save target as'.



Acknowledgements