Fire timely reminder to maintain trees

4 February 2015

A large fire at Islington today is a timely reminder of the need to prune or remove trees that can impact overhead lines in high winds, says Orion Chief Executive Rob Jamieson.

"We are continually urging landowners to maintain trees that are near power lines to avoid power outages," says Mr Jamieson. "That message is doubly important in these tinder dry conditions when tree damage can cause fires."

With high winds across the region this afternoon, fallen trees or branches caused more than 30 power outages affecting about 5000 Orion customers.

Mr Jamieson says it’s essential that people assume that all fallen lines are live and stay well clear.

He says Orion has taken all practical steps to minimise the risk of fires being sparked by electrical equipment.

"Several weeks ago as the region was drying out we changed our operating practices because of the heightened fire risk.

"For example, normally a piece of equipment called a "recloser" automatically restores power to an overhead line after a momentary power cut. So if a tree branch falls on a line in high winds it may cut power for a second or two. When the branch then falls to the ground the recloser automatically reinstates power to the line.

"Automatic reclosers are a great means of restoring power quickly but every time they try to reinstate the power they can create a spark," says Mr Jamieson.

Orion has shut down all automatic reclosers on its rural network and will manually check overhead lines to find the cause of any power cuts while the fire danger remains high.

"Unfortunately this means it will take longer to get the power back on, but we can’t take the risk of starting a fire in the current conditions."