A 79-year-old Chidlow woman must pick up the bill for repairs to her property and a new underground power connection after fallen power poles sparked a fire which burned 15ha.

Western Power and WA’s energy safety regulator said yesterday that electricity infrastructure connecting a property to the grid was often the responsibility of landholders.

The issue was highlighted when a wind gust knocked over two ageing wooden power poles shortly before 8pm on Thursday at Pat West’s property on the outskirts of Chidlow, north-east of Perth.

The poles’ collapse brought a live power line into contact with dry stubble, igniting a fire which burnt through sheds and farmland before firefighters contained it.

Ms West said the power poles which connected her house to the electricity network had been at the property since she moved in.

“These have been here since 1969, that’s 43 years, and they’ve done very well but obviously they get rotted at the bottom,” she said.

She said poor health meant she needed power to cool her home.

After the incident, EnergySafety and Western Power disagreed over who should be responsible for notifying property owners about their obligations and liabilities.

EnergySafety acting director Don Saunders said the watchdog had first urged Western Power in February to issue a brochure to relevant landholders informing them of their obligations.

Mr Saunders said the issue was raised again this month but the utility did not act despite EnergySafety’s “expressed” preference for the booklet to be issued by summer.

A Western Power spokeswoman disputed the claims, saying it had offered to help but the matter ultimately lay with EnergySafety.

“Western Power understands that EnergySafety is responsible for advising the public about maintaining electrical equipment, including privately owned overhead powerlines,” she said.

“Western Power offered to jointly issue the brochure with EnergySafety, but EnergySafety declined this offer.”

Mr Saunders said many wooden power poles were a risk because they were old and private owners had not maintained them.

“Once the electricity is metered it becomes their (the landholder’s) electricity,” Mr Saunders said.

“So if their infrastructure fails, it was their electricity that started the fire, not Western Power’s.”

The West Australian

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