Pole caused fire

By Stephen Cooke

A TERMITE-RIDDEN Powercor pole instigated the St Patrick’s Day fire at Garvoc in western Victoria in March, while the electricity company has also been implicated in the nearby Terang fire.

The safety regulator released its findings into the fires, which members of the CFA said were the worst conditions they have battled.

No lives were lost as a result of the fires but farmers were burnt out and livestock was lost.

The Sisters fire was caused by a snapped Powercor pole. In regards to the pole snapping ESV has concluded that:

At around 9 pm the pole snapped and the high voltage conductor hit the ground and ignited vegetation

The pole had a sizeable internal cavity caused by decay and termite infestation which reduced its capacity to withstand the wind conditions

Powercor’s inspection regime failed to identify that the pole was compromised.

ESV will now determine whether regulatory breaches have occurred.

The pole was on the farm of Jack and Better Kenna who said the pole was “rotten as a chop”.

“It was strapped up with steel supports several years ago so Powercor could get more life out of a pole instead of putting a new one in which could have prevented the heartache and pain that many of us have had to endure.

“That pole should have been replaced years ago. They checked that pole last November. We assume they’re doing their job just as we’re doing ours.

“If we did what Powercor did, it would be classed as arson.”

Mr Kenna was grateful no lives were lost.

“If the wind had changed a little bit, Terang could have been wiped out. They need to be held accountable.”

A Powercor spokeswoman said the organisation was reviewing the report into the Garvoc fire.

“Given there are legal proceedings under way, we are unable to make further comment,” she said.

“Powercor should get on national television and apologise. But we know that’s not going to happen,” Mr Kenna said.

Mr Kenna questioned how many other power poles in the district and across Victoria were in a similar condition.

While ESV investigations are continuing in the Garvoc and Terang fires, the case has been closed on St Patrick’s Day fires sparked at Gazette, Minjah, Gnotuk and Laang. All were found to be caused by trees or branches hitting powerlines in high wind.

“ESV has concluded that in all four fires, the trees that hit the powerlines were outside the minimum clearance space required by electric line clearance regulations,” the report said.

“ESV will not be investigating these incidents further.”

The snapped pole the morning after the St Patrick’s day fires.