It claims SA Power Networks’ inadequate fault protection settings led to the bushfire, which started when a tree fell on power lines and then a fence.
Brendan Pendergast the Victorian law firm Maddens Lawyers said South Australia’s energy distributor knew it was a catastrophic fire danger day, with a total fire ban in place.
“And yet we see in the Office of the Technical Regulator’s report that the fault mechanisms were adjusted to normal settings and quite alarmingly the auto-reclose device operated twice so it de-energised the line and then re-energised it after the tree fell on the line and brought it down to the ground,” he said.
In its report on the fire released in August, the Office of the Technical Regulator said it “could not identify any indicators that could have enabled a reasonable person to identify this tree failure prior to the event”.
Mr Pendergast said he would present experts who said the tree was already “severely compromised” three years before the fire and should have been identified as “dead, dying or dangerous”.
Range of losses from bushfire
He said losses went beyond the destroyed homes and 1,000 hectares in damaged vineyards.
“So we’re seeking to recover compensation for those aspects of the fire as well.”
An SA Power Networks spokesman said the company had not yet seen “the detail of the claim” but would defend its actions.
“An independent government report concluded the fire start was due to a tree falling from outside the vegetation clearance zone surrounding power lines, and that SAPN had acted in accord with its bushfire and vegetation management procedures and equipment settings,” he said.
SA Power Networksis controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing.