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Pole top fire research
CFA has hosted a research team from RMIT University to test a new system designed to detect fires that start in power pole tops and notify emergency services before they spread.
Fires that start in power poles can smoulder for hours and spread to nearby vegetation if left unchecked, causing bush or grassfires.
The RMIT research team, consisting of a student group led by Associate Professor Alan Wang, carried out a series of controlled tests last week at CFA’s State Training College at Fiskville that involved fitting purpose-built detectors linked to satellites.
The concept system is designed to monitor pole tops and provide automatic notification to emergency services if a fire does occur.
Pole top fires typically start in poles with a weathered cross-arm, most often when dust and pollutants accumulate around insulators on the pole.
Moisture in the atmosphere – such as light rain – can then cause the dust and pollutants to be ignited by electrical current which can cause the cross arm on the pole to catch fire.
For the experiments carried out last week by Professor Wang’s team, a purpose-built grid of four poles was installed along Lake Road, Fiskville.
One of the poles (Pole 2) was fitted with a weathered cross arm, and detectors linked to satellites and ITC systems were fitted to Pole 1 and Pole 4.
The grid was then energised with 22,000 volts of electricity, causing Pole 2 catch fire. The detectors successfully showed variations in current which indicated the presence of a fire.
While the research is ongoing, it is anticipated that the results achieved by Associate Professor Wong’s team will reduce the incidence of fires resulting from pole top fires in the future by alerting authorities when pole tops catch fire.
This will allow crews to respond and extinguish fires before they spread, and to undertake maintenance on the pole to prevent future fires occurring.