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Extreme and unusual weather conditions have impacted the network with around 50 pole top fire related faults affecting power supply to around 4,500 homes and businesses in the City of Greater Geraldton and the shires of Northampton, Chapman Valley and Irwin.

Western Power crews are working as quickly and safely as possible to remove hazards and repair and restore power to the remaining 2,000 affected customers. Those affected are being advised that outages may be long in duration due to the number of faults and restoration may require multiple asset replacements including poles.

Each pole replacement can take up to 8 hours, depending on the type of pole, and unfortunately some customers may be without power until later in the day. We’re communicating with customers impacted via SMS.

Western Power Executive Asset Management Gair Landsborough said work was continually underway to minimise the risk of pole top fires across the network to increase resilience, however climate change impacts on weather patterns were challenging.

“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,” he said.

“We’re currently replacing insulators with new silicon insulators which are less prone to dust and pollution build up and since July 2022, we’ve replaced more than 6,500 insulators and crossarms across the network.

“We also mitigate pole top fire risk by washing and siliconing of insulators by helicopter on long feeders in the regional areas where we’re permitted to fly. This removes dust and pollution build up, reducing the risk of pole top fires.

"It’s particularly helpful in reducing the likelihood of pole top fires in farming and coastal areas where farming and salt pollution can build up.”

Mr Landsborough said with the network spanning a vast distance and incorporating hundreds of thousands of poles, we prioritise mitigation treatments based on risk.

“We give priority to areas of increased risk such as those in extreme and high bushfire risk areas” he said.

“As part of our work to minimise the risk of pole top fires, we are planning to either wash and silicon or replace insulators in 120,000 locations by mid 2027.”

Western Power are also continuing to explore new technologies and techniques to help reduce the risk of pole top fires and ensure safe and reliable power supply in the Western Power network.

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