Western Power bushfire-ready

Western Power head of operational maintenance Gair Landsborough. Picture: Martin Kennealey           d447763
Western Power head of operational maintenance Gair Landsborough. Picture: Martin Kennealey         d447763

WA’S power utility has cleared vegetation from near about 4000km of power lines in the past year, likening the distance to driving from Perth to Sydney.

Head of operational maintenance Gair Landsborough said Western Power had checked about 140,000 bays between power poles to prepare for this bushfire season.

Mr Landsborough said they found they needed to trim trees along about 34,000 of those bays between Kalbarri, Albany and Kalgoorlie, including the metropolitan area.

“We inspect vegetation to make sure it’s not close to the power lines,” he said.

Mr Landsborough said Western Power had done more than $290 million of work in the past year, replacing 18,000 poles and installing steel reinforcements on 54,000 poles.

He said all the work aimed to minimise the risk of Western Power assets being involved in starting fires.

“The last thing we would want to do is cause any sort of fire,” he said.

The utility treats new poles with fire-retardant paint and will continue helicopter line-washing and silicone coating of pole tops throughout summer.

Mr Landsborough said the utility played its role in fire emergencies, ensuring power supplies to affected areas were not a danger.

“The immediate priority is to make sure all the people and the fireys responding to the fire are safe,” he said.

“We try to educate the community – if a power line is down, treat it as live and dangerous.

“Hopefully it’s not a busy actual response season.”

He said they often needed to maintain power supplies for firefighters to use water pumps, but if there was any risk of power becoming an ignition source, the supply would be switched off.

“We won’t reinstate the line until the fire is down – we do ask customers to be patient,” he said.

Anticipating a tough bushfire season, Western Power is calling on landowners to check their properties and ensure power lines are clear of trees and branches, particularly in bushfire-prone areas.

Network planning and operations executive manager Cameron Parrotte said the preparation program included risk-modelling to identify high-risk zones for pole and power line replacements, plus more frequent pole inspections.

“We are doing everything we can to provide a safe and reliable electricity network, but being prepared for bushfires is a shared responsibility across government, emergency services and our community,” he said.

“We all need to work together to make sure we are ready for bushfires.”

Mr Landsborough said people should prepare for potential fires by ensuring they had access to a water supply that did not rely on mains power, had ways to open electric garage doors if there was a power failure and kept torches and batteries if there was an outage at night.

“Consumers have access to more information than ever before,” he said, suggesting people go online for tips.

WESTERN POWER

Emergency response: call 13 13 51

Advice: www.areyouready.wa.gov.au

More: www.westernpower.com.au or download the Western Power app