It is time for “Winter Sports” in the country areas. Time to put on goggles, safety boots and dust off the fire beaters.

Planned fire regimes, controlled burning and fire breaks are  important at this time of the year.  Fires are destructive to property, and landowners may be prosecuted for negligence if they have not complied with the Fire Act.

 

Around the home, take these precautions -

  •     Trim vegetation / veld grass up to 30m from dwellings;
  •     Remove dead and dry plants, trees, shrubs, excess leaves, plant parts, and low hanging branches around structures;
  •     Create fire safe zones using stone walls, patio’s, swimming pools, decks and road ways;
  •     Stack fire wood and other flammables at least 10m away from buildings;
  •     Liquids should be stored in purpose manufactured metal containers;
  •     Provide sufficient fire extinguishing and supplementary equipment;
  •     Ensure all fire-fighting equipment is regularly checked, serviced and in working order;
  •     Gas installations should be clear of combustibles and conform to the prescribed installation standards.

In the wider area –

  •     Create and maintain adequate fire breaks (a fire break allows easy access, even in the dark, for fire fighters and creates an opportunity to control a wild fire);
  •     Join or form a local Fire Prevention Association, allowing for more structured and organised responses to fire risk;
  •     Form a fire response team;
  •     Ensure workers are fully equipped and regularly trained;
  •     Elect a fire chief and take instruction when fighting fires.

The National Veld and Forest Fire Act requires amongst other obligations, landowners and users –

  •     To have adequate perimeter fire breaks.
  •     To burn only in moderate weather
  •     To have adequate fire fighting personnel and equipment available and on stand by
  •     To give neighbours notice of your intention to burn at least two weeks in advance

The Act also promotes the formation of Fire Protection Associations (FPA). Membership confers the benefit that if fire spreads from a member's property there is not an automatic presumption of negligence, as is the case with non-members.

A local FPA facilitates cooperation between neighbours on common fire management issues and sets minimum standards of fire protection specific to the area.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act provisions require that workers are safely trained and equipped for work. Expecting untrained workers to assist in fire management response is illegal and dangerous.

Finally, the threat is not limited entirely to flames. Radiant heat, dehydration and asphyxiation are also real threats to safety and must be considered. Responding to fires is potentially very dangerous and a responsible and careful approach is required.

 Magaliesberg Biosphere

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