Laws in Western Australia concerning the maintenance of power poles on private property are expected to come under review in the wake of the devastating Perth Hills bushfire.
The bushfire which struck the Perth Hills over the weekend caused immense devastation before being quelled by firefighters, razing 52 buildings and burning through nearly 400 hectares in the Perth suburbs of Parkerville and Stoneville.
An investigation by EnergySafety has since confirmed that the fire was sparked by a power pole which fell down on a privately owned property.
According to Ken Bowron, director of EnergySafety, insulation on consumer wiring was damaged when the pole fell, causing a short circuit and producing sparks which ignited the blaze.
The pole was located on the property of 82-year-old Noreen Campbell, and family members claim the pole appeared to be in a decent working condition mere weeks ago.
The incident has renewed calls for the scrutiny of legislation governing the upkeep of power poles situated on private property.
Under current laws, homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of power lines on rural properties where the homestead is situated at some distance from the road, necessitating the installation of lines from the road to the homestead itself.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson said a review of the responsibilities that should be borne by private property owners for the maintenance of power poles has been long overdue.
“It does seem to me that if you’ve got a recurring causal factor for bushfires then it’s time to have a discussion on those issues,” Gregson said.
This is not the first time that power poles, thousands of which are scattered on private properties throughout the state, have been blamed for triggering bushfires in Western Australia. Experts believe they were the cause of a blaze which hit eastern Perth back in December 2012, threatening to raze homes in Chidlowm.
Gregon said he would have “frank advice” for the government when the incident comes under review, and would call for greater clarification of responsibilities in relation to power pole maintenance.
“There are some questions around power poles,” he said. “Who’s authorised to do that inspection, what sort of responsibility ought there be on others to ensure that work is done?”