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Western Power ready to fight

By Sarah Brookes

ALL Andrea Becker has left is memories.

Ms Becker said she lost everything in the 2014 Parkerville fire and her insurance did not cover all the damage.

“After the fire, I was literally left with nothing but the clothes on my back, my dog and my car,” she said.

“Family photos, my son’s belongings and other keepsakes are all gone.

“With the insurance payout, I’ve been able to buy a smaller house in the same area, but it didn’t cover all of my losses. I’m still out of pocket.”

Nearly 140 Parkerville residents whose homes and properties were damaged in the bushfires have launched legal proceedings against Western Power and its contractor, Thiess.

EnergySafety found the fire started when a wooden power pole, which had been damaged by termites and fungal rot, fell and ignited ground vegetation.

Slater and Gordon bushfire litigation consultant Kevin Banks-Smith said Western Power was trying to avoid responsibility for the fire by shifting the blame to the landowner.

“Our clients allege Western Power had a responsibility to ensure that it had adequate systems for the inspection, maintenance and replacement of wooden poles in its electricity network,” he said.

“Western Power conveniently claims that its responsibility ended at the pole adjacent to the rotten pole which collapsed and caused the fire.

“We do not accept that the rotten pole was the landowner’s responsibility.

“On July 19, 2013, six months prior to the fire, Thiess, contracted by Western Power, conducted works on the rotten pole, and inspected it, but did not detect that it was extensively damaged by termites and fungal rot.”

Western Power executive manager Dave Fyfe said the utility would fight the claims in court alongside contractor Thiess.

“Our position remains that Western Power did not contribute to the incident,” he said.

“There’s a clear demarcation point from where the network ends and when private property starts.

“It’s no different to any other services that go on to houses, like telecommunications services and water services.

“Western Power has a responsibility and accountability for those components that sit on Western Power’s network but in this instance, it wasn’t – the pole was on private property.’’

He said the utility had not changed its maintenance program and encouraged private pole owners to have them inspected.

 

About Sarah Brookes

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