Parkerville bushfire: 86yo property owner failed to check power pole before blaze


July 31, 2018 21:16:37

An elderly woman has told a Perth court she never checked a power pole on her property before it collapsed and sparked a fire which tore through a Perth hills suburb.

The 2014 Parkerville blaze damaged or destroyed dozens of homes.

Eighty-six-year-old Noreen Campbell — along with Western Power and contractors Thiess — is being sued by residents and property owners who lost their homes.

Mrs Campbell told the court there had been problems in the past with termites in fruit trees on her property, but a pest controller had gotten rid of them.

She also told the court she assumed termites could not get into jarrah, and did not check the pole or ask anyone else to do it.

LACHLAN ARMSTRONG QC: Did you ever turn your mind to whether this particular pole might be affected by termites?
LACHLAN ARMSTRONG QC: And the reason you didn’t think about it was because you understood the pole to be jarrah? Is that right?
LACHLAN ARMSTRONG QC: And the stumps that were under your house that were affected by white ants, you’ve given evidence, were also jarrah? Correct?
LACHLAN ARMSTRONG QC: Did that make you turn your mind at all to the pole also being made of jarrah, might also be affected by termites?
LACHLAN ARMSTRONG QC: Did you ever check the pole?
LACHLAN ARMSTRONG QC: Did you ever ask anybody to check the pole?
LACHLAN ARMSTRONG QC: You knew the pole was holding up power lines, didn’t you?

The court has previously been told the pole was affected by termites.

As well as the collapsed pole, Mrs Campbell was questioned about a steel pole which was not in use, and an earlier pole which had been on the property — but she had trouble remembering details about those.

When Mrs Campbell was asked by other counsel about her earliest memory of the meter box which was on the pole in question, she replied that she never used to think about it.

She was also asked if she could remember the last time she “visited” the pole, but she said she could not.

Mrs Campbell is named in Western Power’s claim on the basis that she “owned” the pole and had a duty of care to maintain it.

Power pole ‘looked good’ to contractor before blaze

Mrs Campbell was not asked many questions in court, unlike Leonard Bartosch, the Thiess contractor who had inspected the pole in July, 2013 — about six months before it collapsed.

Mr Bartosch told the court he dug around the pole, did a sounding test with a hammer — taking care not to damage the pole — and looked for rot or holes.

He also took a photo of the pole’s meter box, which was missing a door.

Mr Bartosch told the court everything he knew about carrying out inspections, he had learned on the job and through watching others. He said he had not been told specifically about fungal rot or termites.

He said what he did during his July inspection was “standard practice”, and the pole had looked good. He also said what he had put in the court statement was what he could remember of the day.

He said he could not explain discrepancies in the record of the day’s work, which made reference to a metal pole.






First posted

July 31, 2018 21:04:37

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