By Claire Ottaviano
TWO-and-a-half-year-old Tom Moon’s cheeky grin says it all, Gidgegannup residents are thrilled to be back on the power grid.
When the Wooroloo Fire swept through Gidgegannup in the first week of February, it destroyed 86 homes along with 579 power poles, 47 transformers and 56 underground assets – knocking out power to 2000 homes.
On Tuesday morning, Tilden Park residents presented Western Power crews with a card thanking them for their non-stop work to see electricity restored.
The operation to rebuild is one of the largest Western Power has ever undertaken, with 270 employees and 200 light, heavy and support vehicles on the ground every day for the past three weeks.
Western Power operations executive manager Sam Barbaro said the amount of work completed from the temporary depot was almost as much as a small to medium depot would see in a year.
“As the fire was burning and we started to see the damage coming through the network we knew we had to set up a site close to the fire zone so we could respond quickly,” he said.
“We’ve got people here from Albany, Pinjarra, as far north as Geraldton.”
Many had been posted away from their families for more than a fortnight.
“Seeing the devastation when they’re going around working makes it very real for them,” Mr Barbaro said.
“They’ve all got families they’ve all got homes, they understand what it’s all about.”
Resident Jemma Moon said while short-term power outages in rural areas were to be expected, long term power outages took a toll on both those who had lost homes and those whose homes had survived.
“Everyone in Tilden Park has been on generators,” she said.
“Our routine every morning is to get up and put fuel in it, every night put fuel in it before you go to bed.
“Most people need to do that just to keep their food cold.
“We lose power a lot out here, trees fall, power lines go down but I don’t think people in the broader city areas get what power means to people because it’s taken for granted.”
As part of the rebuild Western Power also deployed stand-alone power systems on two properties – a first for metropolitan WA.
The units will significantly improve power reliability and quality for properties located on challenging terrain.
Power is expected to return to about 220 homes still without power next week.