Thousands lose power across Perth as overnight rain sparks pole fires



January 03, 2019 11:57:01

More than 14,000 properties in Perth and surrounding areas were left without electricity this morning as summer rain caused a number of power poles to catch fire.

Key points:

  • Pole-top fires are caused when built-up dust interacts with misty rain
  • The combination creates tracks that allow the electrical current to arc
  • Power has been cut to houses across Perth’s north, south and east

From about 4:00am, fire services were inundated with reports of power poles burning — from Joondalup in Perth’s north to Singleton, south of the city.

The pole-top fires were sparked by light rain interacting with dust build-up on insulators following recent dry weather.

Western Power spokeswoman Jillian Reid said the dust build-up, when combined with misty rainfall, could allow paths or “tracks” to be created across the power pole which allowed the current to arc or spark.

While this usually tripped a safety device that cut the power, the current could sometimes continue to flow, causing metal fittings and bolts to become extremely hot, which could then ignite parts of the pole.

“Rather than misty rain, if there had been a downpour it would have washed the powerlines and insulators,” Ms Reid said.

Dozens of repair crews dispatched

Ms Reid said dozens of Western Power technicians had been dispatched this morning to restore power, but in the meantime people should avoid downed lines, and report any faults.

“We do have crews that have been dispatched and are working to repair the faults as quickly as possible and they will be working, as a number-one priority, to remove any hazards on the network and then to get people reconnected,” she said.

“If customers see any downed power lines they should stay eight metres away and call Western Power immediately on 13 13 51.”

Among the worst affected areas in the north this morning were:

  • Joondalup
  • Ocean Reef
  • Duncraig
  • Scarborough
  • Trigg
  • Malaga
  • Ellenbrook.

In the east there were outages in:

  • Bassendean
  • South Guilford
  • Midland
  • Kelmscott
  • Seville Grove
  • Armadale

In the city’s south there were more than 2,000 outages from a pole fire in Munster, which affected:

  • Munster
  • Coogee
  • Beeliar
  • Wattleup
  • Henderson
  • Spearwood

South of Perth, pole fires in Singleton left more than 4,000 properties in the Mandurah area without electricity.

Ms Reid said Western Power spent about $400 million a year on maintenance of its poles and wires. The utility has previously said it was not practicable to wash all of the more than 800,000 poles in its network.

It was also working to place power lines underground where possible, and silicon was applied to tens of thousands of insulators each year to prevent dust build-up, with a focus on applying these techniques in bushfire-risk areas.










First posted

January 03, 2019 11:43:24

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