WA Bushfire Victims May Chase Class Action

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Parkerville bushfire victims may pursue a class action against Western Power following the release of a report into the blaze that devastated Perth’s Hills region.

Fifty-seven homes, seven outbuildings and about 392ha of bushland were burned after a rotten and termite-damaged privately-owned power pole toppled over in Parkerville in mid-January this year.

A further six homes were partially damaged.

The EnergySafety report found Western Power contractors should have observed clay deposits in the jarrah pole earlier that month, indicating extensive and prolonged termite activity.

Some were near the top of the pole and would have been visible to contractors who connected a new cable to it in July 2013.

The report says Western Power should have spotted the damage and notified the resident responsible for maintaining the pole.

But Western Power says four of its contractors used visual and non-intrusive methods – using a pick to estimate the depth of good wood – to ensure the pole was safe to connect to the network, and had deemed it sound.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Kevin Banks-Smith said it was clear that had Western Power implemented suitable testing methods when maintenance was performed, the extensive damage done by the fire could have been prevented.

Mr Banks-Smith said several property owners whose homes were lost or damaged had engaged the firm, which was investigating whether Western Power could be held legally responsible.

Stoneville and Parkerville Progress Association chairman Greg Jones said many people were still suffering emotionally and financially from the fire but the report would help victims start thinking about compensation.

“We’ve always believed that Western Power and its contractors have a case to answer to and the report shows who is largely to blame,” Mr Jones said.

Opposition spokesman for state development Bill Johnston said a thorough review into how private poles were managed was needed because the government had still not responded to the problem.

“This accident may happen again tomorrow,” Mr Johnston said.

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