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Unseasonal weather conditions have caused widespread damage across parts of the Western Power network with around 70 pole top fire related faults that are affecting power supply to around 13,000 homes and businesses in the Perth metropolitan area, including the Perth hills.

Western Power Executive Manager of Asset Operations Zane Christmas said crews are working as quickly and safely as possible to address a significant volume of hazards and make safe prior to commencing repairs and restore power. At the peak earlier today, around 47,000 customers were impacted.

“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,” he said.

“All available crews are working to address the hazards. Once all hazards have been made safe, crews will be able to assess poles for replacement and start repair work.”

“All planned work has been cancelled for today and all available resources have been assigned to the repair and restoration effort. We will continue to monitor the situation and assess the need to cancel planned works in some areas tomorrow.”

“Our network operations team is also performing backfeeding and switching where possible, isolating damaged parts of the network, to restore customers on non-damaged parts of the network.

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 unfortunately some customers may be without power for an extended period. Those affected customers will be contacted via SMS so they can plan accordingly.

We are prioritising restoration of areas with critical infrastructure such as hospitals and other emergency services as well as high voltage bulk transmission lines that supply power to thousands of customers, and localised faults that affect clusters of homes and businesses.

Mr Christmas said, 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.”

"A series of recent extreme and unseasonable weather events have posed some challenges but we’d like to assure the community that we’re working as quickly and safely as we can to conduct repairs and restore power to customers.”

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