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Cooperative effort sees Boeing 737 aid Collie bushfire suppression

One of the network’s largest transmission lines was strategically turned off for three hours on Monday to allow Australia's biggest firefighting aircraft, a Boeing 737 air tanker, to safely fly over the Collie fire to aid bushfire suppression efforts.

A collaborative approach between Western Power, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Parks and Wildlife and the Australian Energy Market Operator, provided for a bold plan to switch off a 330kV transmission line to enable the aircraft to dump three loads of 15,000 litres of water and gel on the bushfire that was burning out of control in Collie.

Western Power Control Room Team Leader Adam Kew said the switching off the transmission line had no impact on customers with power supply provided by alternate lines.

“This is an excellent example of agencies working and collaborating together in emergency situations to aid response where we can,” he said.

“We work closely with the controlling fire agencies in bushfire incidents in assessing any requests to deenergise the power network and its impacts on customers and critical electricity supplies. Wherever possible, we close and open sections of the network where needed and restore power supply to our customers following bushfires.”

“This was the first time that we have turned off a high voltage line for firefighting aircraft of this magnitude and it highlights the capability and technical expertise of our network operations team.”

 “Our purpose-built network control room operates 24/7, 365 days and see’s everything that is happening on the entire electricity network, a bit like air traffic control.

“We control the electricity network, manage the network so crews can perform planned work, and coordinate Western Power’s response to emergencies.”