Farmers playing with fire

South Australia’s farmers are “playing with fire” every time they go out to work on their properties.

That warning has come from SA Power Networks following another summer of fire starts caused by farm vehicles making contact with and bringing-down power lines.

“We had 12 incidents between the start of November 2017 and the end of February 2018 in which grass and crop fires were started after farmers using farm equipment hit our infrastructure,” said Paul Roberts, Corporate Affairs Manager for SA Power Networks.

“Apart from the obvious risk of electric shock or worse, these incidents pose a major risk for the community.

“We are constantly urging farmers to be vigilant when moving tall and wide vehicles on their property, and particularly when they’re seeding or harvesting and are likely to be under pressure to get the job done,” Mr Roberts said.

The number of incidents over the 2017-2018 summer was worrying, as previous experience suggests about 20 incidents per annum.

“Even one incident is one too many,” Mr Roberts said.

“The fires sparked by these incidents ranged from very small grass burns to fires burning more than 1,000 hectares. Luckily those fires were contained before they caused further loss.”

On-farm incidents were sparked by work ranging from moving grain augers; tree felling; use of spray units; tip trucks; and even high-powered sprinkler systems.

“Clearly, some thinking about the hazards and a bit of  risk management could have avoided these incidents occurring. It’s an important reminder that every job has its risks and farmers need to be managing them to ensure everyone is safe on the farm so that they don’t start something that may not be able to stop, such as a fast-moving grass fire.”

Mr Roberts said bushfire prevention was a key aspect of activity undertaken by SA Power Networks.

“The electricity distribution network is designed to reduce the potential for a bushfire start. This includes clearing vegetation close to lines, use of insulated conductors in targeted high bushfire risk areas; installation of various protection devices, circuit breakers, reclosers and surge arrestors; and line spacers, which all help minimise fire risk. The use of concrete Stobie poles instead of wooden poles provides a significant benefit also.”

Mr Roberts said SA Power Networks had an extensive program of inspecting its asset utilising helicopter and ground patrols, in all bushfire risk areas. “These inspection and patrol programs  help to confirm that our lines are in a sound condition and vegetation is clear of our lines,  prior to summer.”

“Whilst our fire starts performance is much lower than that in other states, we’re constantly reviewing our statistics to ensure we maintain a low fire start risk. . Also under State Legislation and as a last resort, we may  turn off power in extreme bushfire situations. We don’t use  this power often, but we intensively monitor fire conditions across summer and if we had to use to protect life or property, we would.”

More information regarding safety around power lines can be found at:

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