IIG News

IIG Insights: Fire Reality – Your Responsibility and Liability

Tshepiso Choco, Deputy President of the IIG welcomed all IIG members and those in attendance. She commented on the unpredictability of 2020 and the remarkability of the human spirit that has allowed everyone to find a new normal whilst navigating through the uncertainty of this pandemic. It is in the very nature of our humanity to want to continue to learn and reinvent ourselves constantly. To those attending an insights session for the first time, Tshepiso provided information on how to access their CPD via the IIG CPD Vault and encouraged everyone to share their experiences on all social media platforms using the hashtag #InsuringTomorrow

Tshepiso introduced our speaker, Emil Pretorius, who heads up Santam Agri. Emile began his career in claims, and thereafter moved on to becoming regional trainer and finally to Santam Agri as a Business Development Manager. Emil enjoys sports but describes himself as a “true human being” passionate about insurance true and proper and consumer education. He has also begun various initiatives within the insurance education arena.

Emil Pretorius thanked the IIG and emphasized that it was an honour to represent Santam on such a prestigious platform. He reiterated that he is convinced that its insurance that is keeping the world on track at this current time as well as investment in sustainability.  Unfortunately, the webinar suffered a small technical glitch but, was able to resume shortly thereafter.

Emil echoed that In South Africa, we have many different cultures within the rainbow nation and agriculture is the commonly shared passion between all cultures.

Veld fires in SA / The National Veld & Forrest Fire Act #101 OF 1998

Vasco Da Gama referred to South Africa as “Terra de fume” (land of smoke) after passing the South African coastline and saw smoke of various veld fires.

A summarised historical timeline as follows:

  • February 1869: was the first veld fire to be declared a national disaster. 480 kms of land destroyed from Swellendam up to Humansdorp killing 31 people and destroying hundreds pf farm houses and thousands of livestock.
  • Farmers were warned as early as 1924 to be extra vigilant of the risks related to fires and the impact thereof
  • Knysna Fire: 2017
  • George Fire: October 2018
  • Greyton Fire (WC): 2019

Emil thereafter shared a detailed video describing the types of fires and the resultant impact.

Veld and forest fires are dealt with under the veld and forest fire act. Veld fire meaning any fire occurring outside the boundary of urban areas that threaten to run out of control. Understanding veld fires helps in the prevention of starting one or becoming a victim to one. This not only protects one’s assets, but the environment as well.  Some contributing factors of ecological fuels can be land with low moisture content like grasslands and fynbos while topography plays a crucial impact on the spread of fire. Some types of fires are surface, natural, ground or underground.

Origins of fires:

  • Unnatural or natural
  • The primary course of unnatural fires is human activity & is higher in frequency than natural fires. It’s usually accidentally caused by humans whilst deliberate fires are termed as arson and is a criminal act.
  • natural – lightning, strong winds and unusual high temp and low humidity.

Some fire regime elements are frequency, season, intensity, severity, type of fire, the size and the source of ignition. Actions to combat fire:

  • The ability to deal with a crisis situation as well as having an integrated fire management process to reduce damage from wildfires
  • Fire awareness
  • Prevention prescribed burning
  • Rehabilitating fire damage.

A fire protection association can be set up by any group of land owners. Protection from fire breaks although limited are the best form of stopping or slowing down the spread of fire. Some resources of firefighting are human resources, equipment and vehicles, all of which need to be in excellent physical and operational condition. It is often common to associate Agri Insurance with crops and animals but cover to facilitate fire damage is also quite crucial. Emil advised that Santam incentivises clients by rewarding those who are part of a Fire Protection Association (FPA).

Emil continued his discussion by unpacking the National Veld & Forrest Fire Act #101 of 1998, of which chapter 4 is the most relevant as it confirms every owner on whose land a veld fire may start or burn or spread must prepare & maintain a fire break on his/her side of the boundary between their land and the adjoining land.  Membership of an FPA is not compulsory but the benefits are highly valuable. FPA’s keep their members alerted on conditions and provide valuable fire advice. Santam grants a discount to FPA members as they have taken responsibility around risk mitigation.

Some of the specific exclusions are liability consequent upon injury or damage arising out of the spread of fire from the insured’s premises.  One can however include an extension spread of fire: R250,000 or the limit of indemnity (per period of insurance) whichever is greater. Excluding damage to sugar-cane or timber plantations with an option to include.

Emil then ended his presentation with a case study that involved a citrus farmer occupying about 107 hectares of land. Some of the employee’s children in the neighbouring land experimented with matches and accidentally started a fire. The staff managed to extinguish the fire, but it flared up again twice indicating the client’s negligence as he had not ensured that the fire was fully extinguished. The second flare-up destroyed the neighbouring land, the citrus farm resulting in approximately R17 million worth of damage.

Tshepiso thanked Emil and apologised for the technical glitch earlier in the presentation. She thanked all in attendance for their patience and attendance and advised that the Q&A will be answered on IIG’s website.