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Mid West bushfire season preparation

Western Power crews have completed extensive bushfire preparedness work in the Mid West region ahead of the upcoming bushfire season to minimise fire risk and associated impacts on the network.

Executive Manager of Asset Management Gair Landsborough said significant work had been done in the region to mitigate the risk and impacts of bushfires including maintaining and replacing poles, wires and insulators where needed, and managing vegetation.

“This financial year in the Mid West Region we are planning to invest close to $10M on bushfire mitigation, $1.8M on replacing conductors, almost $8M on pole replacement/reinforcement and $1M on vegetation management” he said.

“We’ve increased insulator replacements and network maintenance and renewal to improve power reliability where we can and help prevent pole top fires in the region,” he said.

Mr Landsborough said Western Power has a comprehensive poles and wires preventive maintenance programs which includes insulator siliconing, washing and replacements, and managing trees and vegetation near wires.  We’re also continuing our pole top fire modelling research to improve our ability to predict periods of risk where weather may affect the network.

“Every year we implement our bushfire mitigation strategy to help reduce the risk of bushfires. This strategy includes a mix of smart network settings, proactive management of poles and wires in high/extreme bushfire zones (including increased frequency of pole inspection) and changing how we operate in response to fire restrictions.”

“We’re regularly reviewing our processes and considering what new solutions we can implement to mitigate bushfire risk from our infrastructure while providing a safe and reliable power supply for our customers.”

“During bushfire season, we adjust settings on network devices to reduce the likelihood of fire risk. Devices that are used to restore power quickly during transient faults (auto-reclosers) are modified to make them more sensitive during the bushfire season. This reduces fire risk but may result in more frequent power and prolonged interruptions.”

Western Power has a number of projects underway in the Mid West region which are being progressively implemented over a number of years to improve reliability performance including:

  • a backup scheme in Northampton for the two existing feeders in the area - if one experiences a fault, the second may take over supply to the majority of customers – this work is well progressed
  • planned installation of additional automated switching devices throughout the region to speed up power restoration efforts.

Mr Landsborough said Western Power worked under different practices over summer and it was important that people were aware of fire danger ratings declared by DFES and the BOM and total fire bans and vehicle movement bans which are vital to keep the community, firefighters and crews safe.

“We have alternative options and strategies that can sometimes be used while these safety restrictions are in place including the use of helicopters and drones to inspect areas that are inaccessible.”

People can help reduce bushfire risk by:

  • Keeping trees away from powerlines on their properties and learning the clearance zones for a safe minimum distance. 
  • If you see a fallen or damaged powerline or an emergency situation affecting the electricity network, stay clear and make the safe call on 13 13 51.
  • If you see a spark or fire in vegetation, no matter how small, call 000 immediately.
  • If you experience an outage in bushfire season, please be patient. We’ll restore power as soon as it is safe to do so.