Pow­er­line fault fall­out

Avon Valley Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Lynn Gri­er­son

MT He­lena res­i­dents Ian and Clare John­ston are call­ing for a re­view of West­ern Power’s fault- han­dling pro­ce­dures af­ter strong winds brought down pow­er­lines which started a fire near their home.

Mr John­ston said West­ern Power dis­missed his con­cerns about re­duced volt­age on his 20ha prop­erty and sug­gested he call a li­censed elec­tri­cian.

“I tried to say they may be wrong, that it ap­peared to be a sup­ply prob­lem not a prop­erty prob­lem, then I went out­side to start my gen­er­a­tor and saw the fire just 300m from my home,” he said.

Mr John­ston said he and his wife feared a re­peat of the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the Park­erville fires in 2014 when more than 40 homes went up in flames.

“I could see the fire was burn­ing di­rectly be­low a West­ern Power in­stal­la­tion and I rang 000 to re­port the blaze,” he said.

“For­tu­nately lo­cal fire units were at­tend­ing a func­tion nearby and ar­rived quickly, but they were pre­vented from do­ing any­thing be­cause the dis­tri­bu­tion line had bro­ken and fallen, mak­ing a fence live.”

He said fire­fight­ers waited around for an hour and a half be­fore some­one ar­rived from West­ern Power to make the area safe.

“It was ex­tremely good luck the fire did not spread into the sur­round­ing hectares of bush, es­pe­cially with the easterly wind blow­ing at that time,” he said.

Mr John­ston com­plained to West- ern Power about the han­dling of his call on March 10.

He asked what would hap­pen if the sit­u­a­tion was re­peated but found the re­sponse equally dis­ap­point­ing.

A cus­tomer service of­fi­cer said that when a sin­gle- phase premises had power is­sues, it was of­ten as a re­sult of a fault on the cus­tomer’s side and “the ser­vices of an elec­tri­cal con­trac­tor, not West­ern Power, is re­quired”.

The of­fi­cer said West­ern Power was not aware of any wires down or fires within the area un­til a call was re­ceived from the Depart­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices about 40 min­utes af­ter Mr John­ston’s call.

A West­ern Power spokesman said a fault crew was dis­patched im­me­di­ately un­der lights and siren.

“While we are con­fi­dent that in­built au­to­matic pro­tec­tion de­vices ac­ti­vate to cut power af­ter some­thing sig­nif­i­cant hits the net­work, as a pre­cau­tion we al­ways send a fault crew to con­firm the area is safe,” he said.

“Our fault crew ar­rived on site at 9.30pm and con­firmed a tree had been blown over by strong winds and as a re­sult pow­er­lines had been brought down.”

Drop- out fuses were re­moved from the net­work and the area around the fallen pow­er­lines was safe for fire­fight­ers to work.

“We al­ways ad­vise peo­ple to call 000 in an emer­gency,” the spokesman said.

“If they see dam­age to the net­work, in­clud­ing fallen pow­er­lines, stay at least 8m away and call West­ern Power on 13 13 51.”

Pic­ture: David Baylis www. com­mu­ni­typix. com. au d481645

Ian John­ston wants West­ern Power to re­view how it han­dles faults af­ter a fire started near his Mt He­lena home.

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