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Fire risk a worry for wind farm proposal

A war of words has broken out between those opposed to and in support of the proposed Cherry Tree Range wind farm.

CHALPAT SONTI December 19, 2012 4:55am

It centres around the fire risk of the $100million project, which itself will be decided by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

A group called the Australian Industrial Wind Turbine Awareness Network says the recent Whiteheads Creek fire, which broke out in the shadows of the Cherry Tree Range, ‘‘clearly highlights the danger of locating large industrial wind turbines in high fire risk areas’’.

‘‘Rural fire brigades are not equipped to extinguish fires in 150m high burning turbines and must wait for the turbine to collapse before they can safely extinguish the fire,’’ it said.

‘‘This is completely at odds with the long-standing protocol of timely attendance and speedy fire suppression to remove the threat of fire spreading. Further increasing the risk of dangerous fire escalation is the inability to use aerial fire support because of safety issues from operating near large wind turbines.

‘‘The government must introduce regulation to prohibit the operation of wind turbines in high fire risk areas on days of severe fire danger.

‘‘Wind energy developments are continuing to be built in fire prone areas. There is total disregard for extra fire protection requirements that should be in place due to the increased fire risks from wind energy developments and hazards and restrictions associated with fighting fires around wind energy developments.’’

But Yes2Renewables, an offshoot of the Friends of the Earth, said the major causes of wild fires in Australia were lightning strikes, escaped campfires, burning off and agricultural burns, fires caused by farming equipment or machinery, and arson.

‘‘There have been a small number of fires in turbines recorded in Australia. None have escaped and become wild fires,’’ it said.

The South Australian Country Fire Service said it treats wind farms the same as other structures when it comes to aerial fire fighting.

CFS aviation manager David Pearce reportedly said: ‘‘We would treat the wind farms exactly the same way as we treat powerlines that are reasonably high, also radio masts, television towers or even high structures.’’

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