INTERIM GUIDELINES FOR ENFORCING THE NATIONAL VELD AND FOREST FIRE ACT (NV&FFA) FOR FIRE PROTECTION OFICERS (FPOs), FOREST OFFICERS, CHIEF FIRE OFFICERS AND LANDOWNERS
A. When landowners contravene the NV&FFA
1. FPOs, forest officers, chief fire officers and landowners should act as facilitators to encourage non-complying landowners to abide by the statutory requirements that should be met in terms of the Act. Where a landowner contravenes the Act, they must may in writing or verbally:
a. Inform the landowners of their legal obligations under the NV&FFA. It is advisable to list the obligations.
b. Encourage landowners to join fire protection associations (FPAs).
c. Inform landowners of the benefits of belonging to FPAs.
d. Assist landowners to join FPAs.
2. If landowners are not co-operative and/or refuse to comply:
a. FPOs, forest officers and chief fire officers should take legal action by laying a charge at the nearest South African Police Service (SAPS) office.
b. Charges may be withdrawn if landowners change their minds and join an FPA or take action to comply.
B. When the general public contravenes the NV&FFA
1. FPOs, forest officers and chief fire officers should always enforce the Act when the general public contravenes or is in the process of contravening sections of the Act by:
a. Informing the person that s/he is contravening the Act.
b. Asking for corrective action to be taken.
2. Where no corrective action is taken or the offence is serious, FPOs, forest officers and/or chief fire officers may take the necessary steps to stop the offence, for example, arresting the person or reporting to the offence to the police.
3. It is suggested that FPOs and FPAs request their members and the general public to report offences to them. It is suggested that FPOs delegate this function to different persons in different areas of the FPA. Persons to whom powers have been delegated may report cases to the FPO but do not have the power to search, seize or arrest.
C. Powers to search, seize and arrest
1. FPOs, forest officers (officers appointed in terms of Section 65 of the National Forests Act No 84 of 1998), officers under the Fire Brigade Services Act (No 99 of 1987) and police officers have the powers to search, seize and arrest.
2. FPOs may only arrest persons after the Director-General of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has duly registered them.
3. Persons exercising powers to enforce the Act should always carry with them proof of identity and appointment as enforcement officers.
D. Conditions for arrest
1. Registered FPOs and forest officers have the power to arrest without a warrant when—
a. A person commits or attempts to commit a first or second category (or third) offence in front of the fire protection officer or forest officer; or
b. A fire protection officer or forest officer reasonably suspects or has reliably been informed that a person committed a first or second (or third) category offence; or
c. A fire protection officer or forest officer is of the opinion that a person who committed a third category offence will fail to answer to a summons to appear in court.
2. For all other cases, the FPO and/or forest officer must apply for a warrant of arrest from an attorney general, public prosecutor or a commissioner of police. Only a peace officer (appointed forest officer or police officer) may execute a warrant. FPOs and officers under the Fire Brigade Services Act do not have these powers.
3. Arrested persons must be informed of the reasons for their arrest and of their legal rights.
4. Any person who has been arrested must be brought to a police station as soon as possible.
5. Fire protection officers and forest officers must always contact and/or request assistance from the SAPS if they are unsure whether there are reasonable grounds to arrest a person and/or the circumstances of the case allows for delayed interventions.
6. Police officers are obliged to open dockets for cases reported to them. They can however only open a docket once an offence has been reported to them. FPOs and/or forest officers must report offences to the SAPS and ensure that the SAPS open dockets. They can ask for the case number to be able to follow up on the process of a case.
7. FPOs and forest officers may assist the SAPS with the investigations of cases, that is, with the collection and provision of evidence.
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