More than 50,000 Victorians lose power after spate of power pole fires overnight

More than 50,000 Victorians lose power after spate of power pole fires overnight

16 February 2014

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Australia — MORE than 50,000 Victorians woke to electricity outages this morning after a spate of power pole fires overnight.

MFB spokesman Keith Robinson said crews attended more than 50 non-structure fires between midnight and 7am, a large proportion of them power pole blazes sparked by the change in weather conditions.

Most of the call-outs were in Melbourne’s west and southeast, he said.

Mr Robinson said he was not aware of any property damage as a result of the blazes, but said there would have been power outages.

A State Control Centre spokeswoman said the CFA had responded to just over 30 reports of power lines sparking or coming down since yesterday, most of them in coastal areas.

United Energy spokesman Stuart Allott said about 20,000 homes and businesses had lost power overnight.

He said at 11.30am that about 11,000 customers were still in the dark across Cheltenham, Heatherton, Dromana, Oakleigh and Doncaster.

Extra crews and call centre staff had been called in to help fix the outages, Mr Allott said.

Citipower and Powercor spokesman Drew Douglas said more than 40,000 homes and businesses — 34,000 on the Powercor grid in central and western Victoria and 2900 Citipower customers in the CBD and inner suburbs — had blacked out overnight.

By 11.30am, this number had reduced to 8300 for Powercor, mostly in Sunshine, Werribee and Laverton, and 1700 for Citipower.

By 3pm, just 5000 homes and businesses across both suppliers were without power, Mr Douglas said.

Mr Douglas said most would be back on “in the next few hours”.

Customers had been notably affected Sunshine, Werribee, Laverton, Kyneton, Hamilton, Geelong and Northcote.

Mr Douglas said the first outage was recorded at Hamilton, in the state’s west, about 1.45am.

There had been almost 150 separate faults across Victoria.

He said the fires were sparked by last night’s small amount of rain, coming after a long spell of dry weather.

“If it’s been really dry and windy like we had with the fires last week, debris gets our insulators. When you get a light rain like we had, the debris can get wet,” Mr Douglas said.

“This causes arcing on the power lines.

“You get a little spark, which then causes a little fire.”

Jemena spokesman Samantha Porter said 1175 homes and businesses across its distribution area of northwest greater Melbourne were without power this morning.

“They should be back on by midday, all going well,” she said.

SP AusNet spokesman Jonathon Geddes said 1,800 customers had suffered blackouts in Melbourne, with Thomastown particularly affected.

About 1,200 properties remained without power early in the afternoon.

A power pole fire in Clifton Hill, in Melbourne’s northeast, had this morning closed Heidelberg Rd at Fenwick St.

Several traffic lights in Melbourne’s west, Cheltenham and Mont Albert had also been put out.

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