Autralia: A Fire and Emergency Services Authority report into the Toodyay bushfires in rural West Australia has found power pole failure was likely to be one of the causes of the fire.
But FESA fire investigation officer Gary Baxter says the agency is not an electrical expert and therefore cannot “definitely conclude” actually how the fallen power pole and conductors caused the fire.
The bushfire which began on December 29 last year destroyed 38 homes, injured four local residents, killed sheep and burnt nearly 3000 hectares of bushland.
On the day of the bushfire, temperatures reached more than 40 degrees celsius with very strong winds from the north-west.
On Tuesday, FESA released its bushfire investigation report which determined the fire was probably caused by power pole failure and the energised electrical conductors dropping to ground.
The report said it suspected the conductors caused arcing and ignited vegetation.
“However, on the evidence available, FESA is not able to definitively conclude how the electrical conductors in the vicinity of timber power pole T303-43 caused the fire,” the report said.
Another possible cause of the Toodyay fire was an unknown airborne object hitting the conductors, causing combustible material dropping onto the “stubble, dry grass” and starting the fire.
However the FESA report said that possible cause was unlikely.
The power pole in question is owned by Western Power who have continually denied any liability for the bushfire.
On Tuesday, the power line operator said FESA’s report did not change their view.
Western Power Managing Director Doug Aberle said if the failure of one its assets was proved to be the cause of the Toodyay fire, it would look to resolve claims.
“FESA’s report has not been able to establish the exact point of the fire’s origin or form a conclusive view on how the fire started,” Mr Aberle said in a statement.
Mr Aberle said FESA’s report took into account awitness who said the power pole in question was standing after the fire started.
The FESA report follows a report by EnergySafety WA in August that concluded Western Power’s 34-year-old wooden power pole had fallen, caused arcing that lit dried barley stubble around the pole.
The FESA fire investigation officer Mr Baxter said EnergySafety were able to conclude that as they were experts in electricity.
“Within our legislation we find original cause, we’re not subject matter experts when it comes to electrical infrastructure. EnergySafety and Western Power are,” Mr Baxter told reporters.