Government could pay a pretty penny for damage caused by fires that started on its unkempt farm

The high court has found the government liable for veldfires that gutted a neighbour’s property.

2021-12-04 07:33:00 PM

The high court has found the government liable for veldfires that gutted a neighbour’s property.

The high court has found the government liable for veldfires that gutted a neighbour’s property.

The government was not a member of the local fire protection association and admitted knowing that during the winter season there is a danger of veldfires, that “veldfires posed a threat to the neighbouring farms” and that “at all material times the build-up of high fire fuel loads is extremely dangerous and could potentially cause a fire to originate on its farm or cause the uncontrollable spread of fires”.

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Nel testified that there had been three or four fires on the government’s farm before 2013. He said he was not surprised when he received a call that “a fire was raging on the farm”.“[Nel] said he had firefighting equipment available on his farm. He also maintained good co-operation with his neighbours and they shared firefighting equipment whenever necessary,” the judgment reads.

A witness who worked on the government-owned farm “described the grass as being taller than he is. He also said that there was no firefighting equipment on the farm, and it was left to him and three women to fight fires with water and tree branches,” the judgment reads. headtopics.com

“He also confirmed that there were no persons on Eversly Farm with any experience or training in firefighting. The [government and the tenant] also did not provide any assistance in this regard.”The government told the court it leased the property to Jubeni and he “had assumed full control of the property and thus undertook certain specific statutory obligations”.

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It could not have foreseen he would not carry out the obligations as he was bound by a contract.But Judge John Smith described the government’s argument as “untenable”, adding: “The (government) is liable for the plaintiff's proven or agreed damages resulting from the fires, which occurred on September 28 2013 and August 3 2014, respectively.

“The (government) is liable for the plaintiff's costs of action to date, including the costs of an in loco inspection by (Nel’s) attorney. The issue of the costs regarding the quantum of the claim stands over for determination when quantum is decided.”

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