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Bush fire season is here, don’t be complacent

Published: 25 Sep 2015 1:34pm

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The on-set of spring weather and the associated bush fire season historically signals a heightened level of alert for Ergon.

Although data for fire related impacts on its network from successive years is quite favourable, Ergon warns there is no time for complacency.

“Authorities are still predicting another significant bush fire season particularly in some areas of the State that experienced extreme weather events such as Tropical Cyclone Marcia earlier in the year. We need to be vigilant and prepared” General Manager Customer Delivery Steve Leighton said.

“We have already seen the significant impact bush fires can have on the community with 736 customers losing power for 10.5 hrs between Kunwarara and Clairview to the north of Rockhampton after a power pole was burnt down in hilly country in the Raspberry Creek Road area. In the north of the State around 950 customers were impacted in the Alligator Creek area south of Townsville earlier in the month after a bush fire in the area either damaged or burnt 15 power poles resulting in around 100 of those customers being off line for about 8 hrs while some of the damaged poles were replaced.”

According to Mr Leighton the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 financial years saw the most significant impact on the community, fire authorities and Ergon alike with 141 and 115 power poles respectively lost due to fire activity.

“Coming from this level of impact it is pleasing to see a continuing reduction of 35 fire related incidents recorded in 2013-14 down to 27 last financial year.”  

“The vast majority of last year’s incidents, 17, were from grass and bush fire activity with just two attributed to land owner burn offs - a very pleasing outcome.”

 “It would appear from the figures that property owners are heeding the messages we put out annually about controlled burns. This responsible approach not only has a positive impact on supply to the property owners but also that of the broader community” Mr Leighton said.

The statistics are measured across a number of categories including bushfire, grass fire, landowner burn off, lightning and pole related.

Ergon Energy has over one million power poles across regional Queensland.

“While last year’s figures are very welcome, we also need to be mindful that favourable conditions in at least in some parts  of the Sate have produced an abundance of on ground fuel and a heightened level of alert for Ergon Energy, fire authorities and property owners alike” he said.  

“In past few years, the impact of bush fires on our organisation has been significant and apart from the obvious increased safety issues and costs involved, there is also the added inconvenience placed on the community through unnecessary disruption to power supply” he said.

 “Another important factor to consider is that pole fires pose a potential serious safety risk to the community. Obviously when a pole is burnt down the power lines are brought down as well and this is something we are very concerned about from a public safety perspective” he said.

Ergon Energy relies on the support and assistance from the community which often helps to reduce the impact on the wider community.

“The message is very simple.”

If you are intending to burn off firstly ensure:

  • you have a permit to do so, the conditions are favourable and adhere to all permit conditions
  • heed all fire bans that may be in place at the time and clear around any power poles that may be on your property that could be set alight during a burn off.
  • Of course if you see a pole alight, advise Ergon Energy and the fire authorities by dialling 000 and attempt to put the fire out if it is safe to do and is contained to the lower base area of the pole” he said.

Traditionally the dry winter period creates a lot of fuel on the ground and a need for controlled burning in many areas.

“The message we want to reinforce with landholders is that if they intend burning off, please be aware of any power structures that may be on or near their properties” Mr Leighton said.

Ergon Energy manages the fire risk to its assets through its vegetation management and bushfire mitigation strategies. Mitigation measures in place to combat the ravages of bush fire include:

  • collaborative working arrangement with fire authorities
  • network preventative maintenance program ensuring all Ergon Energy assets are inspected to a defined program
  • specialised aerial surveillance of its network
  • use of fire retardant materials on poles and use of alternative pole material in high risk bush fire areas

“With ongoing assistance from the community, Ergon Energy can respond quickly and ultimately improve reliability of supply to customers. Ultimately if we invest and maintain our vast network in a prudent, efficient and safe manner, we can provided better service delivery to our customers and keep downward pressure on rising electricity prices ” he added.

“On that count we want to acknowledge the tremendous support we receive from Rural Fire authorities giving priority to preserving community infrastructure during bush fire fighting activities and also at time of burn-off permit issue.” 

Customers can obtain further advice or clarification by contacting Ergon Energy on 131046.

Media Contact: Bob Pleash, Corporate Communications Manager
Phone: 49327327 or 0419714270

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