Around 70 pole top fires have caused widespread damage across Western Power’s energy network in Perth, resulting in faults affecting the power supply of approximately 13,000 homes and businesses, including in Perth hills. 

Western Power Executive Manager of Asset Operations, Zane Christmas, said that crews were set to  work as quickly and safely as possible to address a significant volume of hazards and make it safe to commence repairs and restore power. 

“At the peak of the outage, around 47,000 customers were impacted,” Mr Christmas said. 

“Our priority is to make the hazards safe before commencing repairs. This means customers may see crews attending a fault to ensure there is no safety risk and then leaving before power has been restored.” 

Pole top fires can occur during light drizzling rain or misty damp conditions when a combination of dust and pollution builds up to create paths or ‘tracks’ on the insulators, enabling electricity to jump across. This tracking electricity can heat elements of the pole infrastructure to a point where they smoulder and burn.

Each pole replacement can take up to eight hours, depending on the type of pole, and due to the large number of pole replacements required, some customers were without power for an extended period.

Since the outage occurred on 4 March, power has been restored to all affect customers. 

More than 4,000 customers in Greenwood, Madeley, Kingsley, Padbury and Duncraig were without power for about a day-and a-half before it was restored on Tuesday afternoon.

About 1,300 residents in Tapping, Carramar, Neerabup and Banksia Grove were left without power for up to 54 hours.

Suburbs surrounding Stirling and Balcatta were some of the last remaining areas without power on Wednesday. Just under 1600 customers lost power for two days in Nollamara, Dianella, Balcatta, Yokine, Tuart Hill, Osborne Park and Stirling.

A spokesperson for Western Power said on 6 March, “Crews worked as quickly and safely as possible to restore power to all 27,000 customers in the Wanneroo, Joondalup and Stirling areas, including around 110 customers in Balcatta and Stirling who were restored at around 11.30am today.”

Mr Christmas said that while extensive work has been undertaken to minimise the risk of pole top fires across the network to increase resilience, climate change impacts on weather patterns are posing challenges.

“We regularly replace glass and ceramic insulators with new silicon insulators, which are less prone to dust and pollution build up. Since July 2022, we’ve replaced more than 6,500 insulators and crossarms across the network.

“We also conduct insulator washing and siliconing by helicopter or elevated work platform. This removes dust and pollution build up, reducing the risk of pole top fires.

“We are planning to either replace or wash and silicon insulators in 120,000 locations by mid-2027.

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