Technical investigation report: St Patrick’s Day fires

Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has released a report on its technical investigation into a fire at Terang in Victoria’s southwest in March.

High winds through Victoria’s southwest on March 17-18 led to five fire starts involving electricity distribution infrastructure assets.

This resulted in four significant fires, collectively known as the St Patricks’ Day fires.

In addition to the Terang fire, major fires also included Sisters fire (near Garvoc), the Gazette bushfire and the Gnotuk grassfire.

The Terang fire began about 9.30pm on March 17.

Conductors clashed between phases of a 22kV feeder outside the Terang Zone Sub in High Street (Princes Hwy).

“The Terang-Cobden Road fire’s most likely source of ignition was molten conductor material falling from clashing and arcing conductors… and the damage to the conductors is consistent with this conclusion,” the report said.

According to the ESV investigation, the construction of the lines was not consistent with standards and did not allow sufficient clearance between electrical circuits during the wind event of that day.

ESV will now proceed with its investigation into the Terang Fire to determine the nature and extent of any breaches to the Acts and regulations and possible enforcement action.

Investigations into the Sisters’ Fire, which involved the failure of a power pole, are still in progress.

It involves complex forensic analysis and investigation and may take two or three months to complete.

Once this is complete ESV will determine the nature and extent of any breaches to the Acts and regulations and possible enforcement action.

With respect to the fires at Gazette and Gnotuk, ESV working with CFA investigators have determined they were caused by vegetation outside the statutory clearance zone.

ESV will not be investigating these fires further.