EnergySafety’s report into the pole failure that caused the Parkerville bushfire on January 12, released today, shows the private power pole failed because of rot and termites.
The report follows the January 15 finding that the bushfire originated from the failure of a privately owned point-of-attachment pole (PA pole) at 180 Granite Road, Parkerville.
When the pole toppled, it caused the customer’s submains cable to pull through the hole at the bottom of the main switchboard enclosure, causing a short-circuit. Hot metal globules then fell and ignited vegetation at the base of the PA pole.
Director of Energy Safety Ken Bowron said EnergySafety had completed a thorough investigation into the cause of the private pole failure.
“Closely linked with that investigation is the issue of ownership of, and responsibility for, power poles and service apparatus on private land,” Mr Bowron said. “This has been the subject of detailed consideration by EnergySafety and the State Government.
“Our investigation found the pole failed due to extensive damage from fungal decay or rot and termites.
“The Electricity Act 1945 makes no provision for the maintenance of private electrical installations. Under common law, property owners have a duty of care to maintain their power assets in a safe condition, but there is no legislative requirement for an owner to inspect their installation to ensure it is safe.
“The Act also deals with the responsibilities of a network operator in relation to the maintenance and safety of service apparatus.
“Based on the available evidence and existing legislation, EnergySafety will not be taking any legal action,” Mr Bowron said.
“The clear finding of the report is that the pole failed because it was rotten and had been infested by termites,” Mr Bowron said. “In hardwood poles such as jarrah, this is very hard to assess because the rot is usually internal and below ground level.
“Therefore, the age of the pole is the best guide. Poles older than 25 years are at the end of their service life and could be unsafe.”
Owners of private power poles and lines have a duty of care to maintain their electrical assets, and are urged to have them inspected by a licensed electrical contractor.
Volume 1 of the report can be downloaded from EnergySafety’s website at www.energysafety.wa.gov.au.
Media contact: Catherine Gildersleeve 6251 1930 or 0411 258 721 or [email protected]
Source: Department of Commerce