Blue Mountains bushfires caused by electrical arcing

Trees burn in raging bushfire (wickepin)
Image: Shutterstock

A Coroner’s report has found electrical arcing was the cause of the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires.

Both the Springwood and Mt Victoria bushfires were started after trees fell onto power lines causing electrical arcing.

“The release of the Coroner’s report today marks a significant milestone for the Blue Mountains community and Endeavour Energy,” Endeavour Energy general manager asset management Ty Christopher said.

The fires began on a day of extreme bushfire risk with temperatures of 30 degrees and wind gusts of up to 80km per hour.

Both trees were standing on private property outside Endeavour Energy’s clearance zones, Mr Christopher said.

“In the Springwood fire, the tree appeared strong, but in fact it had rotted from the inside out and so collapsed at the base of its trunk and fell over power lines in the street,” he said.

“We understand many Blue Mountains residents were deeply affected by the fires which involved the loss of homes and other property.

“This is a very important matter for the people involved and they deserve our continued respect and understanding.

“Endeavour Energy acknowledges the Coroner’s independent assessment of the evidence and has actioned the three recommendations relating to our operations over the past 18 months, following input about proposed recommendations from the Counsel Assisting the Coroner, and will review these against the recommendations released today.”

Mr Christopher said Endeavour Energy has reviewed its policies and contracts to help contractors better understand obligations, and has also developed an industry-wide training course that can be used by all contractors to better identify ‘hazard trees.’

A draft memorandum of understanding with Fire and Rescue NSW, Rural Fire Service and NSW Police has also been circulated for comment.

“We’re committed to minimising bushfire risk while keeping electricity safe, reliable and affordable for our customers,” Mr Christopher said.

“It’s also important to stress that no one agency can ever completely eliminate the risk of bushfires, especially when so many fires are caused by other factors including arson and lightning.”

Endeavour Energy implements a pre-summer inspection program of all power lines in high bushfire risk areas.

“Each year, we invest an average of $50 million in programs to minimise bushfire risk, including routine maintenance programs… annual aerial and ground inspection of overhead power lines in bushfire prone areas… clearing vegetation from overhead power lines,” Mr Christopher said.

“Since 2013, we’ve also made greater use of helicopter patrols ahead of summer in high bushfire risk areas, fitted with special cameras which feature light detection and ranging technology (LiDAR).

“Over the past year, we used LiDAR technology to inspect more than 102,000 power poles in bushfire-prone areas with a further 47,000 poles inspected from the ground.”

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