Bushfire Risk Will Skyrocket

With the growth of windfarms in the south west of the Victoria, the need for additional electricity transmission network infrastructure is recognised but the safety, for residents, visitors and animals, over the entire life of the infrastructure, needs to be considered when evaluating the alignment options of overhead high voltage powerlines.

Bushfire Risk

Extreme and High to Very-High Risk

The region has both Extreme and High to Very-High Risk areas identified in the Victorian Fire Risk Register.  Many are listed in the High to Very-High Fire Risk category.  Current typical weather conditions for the Moorabool Shire include warm-hot dry summers and cool wet winters.

Bushfire Season is usually hot with north to north-westerly prevailing winds accompanied by high air temperatures and low humidity.

Under the State Government Climate Change Projections, the region is expected to experience increased summer temperatures, decreased rainfall days, especially in Spring, but with increased rain intensity (storm) events. These factors are likely to increase further the fire risk classification for this region.    Fires can be, and are regularly, caused by high voltage power lines.  For example, AusNet Services Group reported to Energy Safe Victoria and the Australian Energy Regulator, that there were 79 ‘fire-start’ incidents in the 6 months between January and June 2016.  Of these, 59 were attributed to: lightning strikes; contacts with birds, animals, or objects, HV fuse failures; and other infrastructure failures.  It is noted that the arc distance for a 500kV overhead power line that is hit by lightning is up to 50m from the base of the tower.

bushfire prone area

Bushfire Prone Area

Bushfire Development Report – Terramatrix Pty. Ltd. – December 2014

The Northern Darley Alignment AoI is within a designated Bushfire Prone Area (BPA) (refer Map).

BPAs are those areas subject to or likely to be subject to bushfires, as determined by the Minister for Planning. Those areas of highest bushfire risk within the BPA are designated as Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) areas.

The bushfire risk to the northern and westernmost parts of the AoI that abut the Lerderderg State Park, could under severe bushfire weather conditions be extreme. The landscape beyond the study area in these directions, provides the potential for very long fire runs from the north and west, over some areas of steep or very steep terrain. Outside the AiO this landscape has the potential to generate extreme fire behaviour, which may be beyond the BMO parameters.

Bushfire Zone

Firefighting operations

Firefighting Operations

Major powerlines are critical infrastructure. They support essential community services and their de-energisation may have significant impact on public safety. Some smaller lines directly service critical sites such as sewerage, water and communication facilities. It is therefore preferable not to attempt fire control activities near energised lines where possible.

A growing list of Moorabool CFA firefighting groups say they will not tackle blazes near a proposed electrical transmission line across the Shire.

Leaders at brigades in Coimadai, Myrniong, Ballan, Blackwood, Mt Wallace, Wallace, Millbrook and Bungaree and Leonards Hill have written to Premier Daniel Andrews and CFA Chief Officer Garry Cook saying any blazes near the overhead powerlines would place their lives at excessive risk.

“(We) will not respond to fires on, above or around the proposed 500kV high voltage lines,” they said in their letters.

“(This is) due to the high risk as well as the unknown hazards working around this type of infrastructure.”

The extreme bushfire risk along with difficult to access terrain within the AoI amplifies the risks with fighting fires in this corridor. Aplified risk to firefighting = amplified risk to lives and properties.

Fires burning near or beneath transmission lines in the AoI will endanger people, animals and homes.

The Black Saturday wildfires, in 2009, were one of Australia’s worst recent natural disasters, claiming 173 lives and destroying thousands of homes across Victoria state. SP AusNet Ltd. , an Australian power-transmission company, agreed with a handful of other parties to pay people affected by the bushfire in Kilmore East—north of Melbourne—a combined 494.7 million Australian dollars in compensation. While agreeing to the settlement, SP AusNet continues to deny liability for the bushfire, claiming the power line was damaged previously by lightning in a way that made it more susceptible to falling, but that was also impossible to detect.

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