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WA fires: $26 million damage to South West power grid forces novel solution

An unprecedented damage estimate of $26 million to the South West electricity network after the Waroona-Harvey bushfires has forced Western Power to consider creative solutions to restore power, including underground lines. 

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WA fires: residents see Yarloop for the first time

Residents who fled the town when a raging bush fire tore though have been allowed back to see the devastation. Vision courtesy of 9 News Perth.

About 950 poles were damaged or destroyed in the fire that killed two men, razed their hometown of Yarloop and destroyed 181 buildings, including 162 homes, as it burned through 71,000 hectares of land.

The fire, sparked by lightning in Lane Pool Reserve on January 6, has been contained but still not extinguished and an advice alert remains on Tuesday for people in the Shires of Harvey and Waroona as career and volunteer firefighters continue to attend to flare-ups at the perimeter. 

An aerial view of what remains of Yarloop.
An aerial view of what remains of Yarloop. Photo: Jason Bloxsidge

Many areas remain without power and have no estimate on its restoration. 

Energy Minister Mike Nahan said on a visit to the region the task was like no other the organisation had ever faced. 

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Dr Nahan said the section of the grid in question was one of the state's oldest, having been built in the 1950s. 

He said Western Power would consider alternative solutions, including exploring ways existing infrastructure could be adapted to reduce outages in the future, as part of recovery efforts. 

"Western Power has explored new solutions to supply power to these towns and communities, and I am pleased to announce that 6.5 kilometres of power lines will be laid underground between Forrest Highway and the outskirts of Preston Beach townsite," he said.

Dr Nahan said the decision to go underground, uncommon in regional areas, was made based on the extent of the damage, surrounding dense vegetation, future bushfire risk, a lack of network interconnectivity, soil type and the lack of competing underground infrastructure, including water pipes and telecommunication cabling.

More than 140 Western Power staff are on the ground in the region.