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Power lines caused fatal bush fire

7 February 2007

published by www.theaustralian.news.com.au

Australia — A clashing of two powerlines sparked the bushfire in which a26-year-old school teacher died trying to flee the blaze, Western Australia’senergy industry safety regulator has found.

EnergySafety today said the clashing together of two Western Power powerlineconductors in high winds had caused Saturday’s bushfire at Toodyay, northeast ofPerth, in which Michelle Mack was killed.

However, it was unable to say why the two powerlines had clashed.

Ms Mack died after her car rolled as she attempted to escape the blaze andshe was thrown from the vehicle.

Police are still unsure if she was killed in the crash or was burnt to death.

EnergySafety director Albert Koenig released a report today which could notfind a clear reason why the conductors clashed.

“EnergySafety … found a short circuit fault had resulted fromconductors clashing on a Western Power 22,000 volt overhead power line north ofToodyay,” Mr Koenig said.

“In the strong gusty winds the red phase conductor and the underslungearth conductor made direct contact with each other, short circuiting anddropping hot metal particles, igniting dry stubble underneath the powerline.”

Western Power managing director Doug Aberle said the company was continuingits own investigation into why the clash occurred.

“The Toodyay line section in question was constructed with 30 per centgreater clearance than typically used between the conductors on powerlines ofthis nature, so it is puzzling that they clashed,” Mr Aberle said.

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