On Dec. 9, a crew of 10 Tri-State line techs left for California to help repair transmission damage caused by 10,000 wildfires this year. In true co-op spirit, our crew gave up their holidays with families and friends to help Pacific Gas and Electric Company and their customers for the next 30 days. Areas hit by the wildfires are still without power in tricky and challenging terrain.
California’s wildfires burned more than 1.8 million acres this year, and one of the United State’s largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies needed help. Based in San Francisco, California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) supplies service to 16 million people over a 70,000 square-mile service area largely affected by the fires.
We and PG&E belong to the Western Region Mutual Assistance Group (WRMAG), a part of our larger utility family. In November, PG&E “put out a ‘dig deep’ request for assistance to other WRMAG members,” said Ruth Marks, senior manager Transmission Maintenance. “It was clear they needed all the help they could get, so we started working through the legal aspects, logistics and other details to get the process going.”
Once the call went out for assistance, our maintenance employees stepped up with more volunteers than we could spare. “We could only send 10 guys in the first round, and had 30 willing to go – even though it meant they’d be away from home over the holidays,” Marks said.
When the first group from Tri-State comes home in early January, a second team of 10 will head back to the area to continue the efforts. Ruth added, “So many people stepped up and wanted to help. That’s how they’re built – it’s just what linemen do.”
Along with working 12-13 hour days, our lineman from Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico are working at higher altitudes where the only access to some lines is by foot. They work for our members all over mountain terrain in four states which gives them an understanding of the fire danger in PG&E's remote service areas. "This situation hit home,” Marks said. “And it’s our nature to help one another. It could be us asking for help someday.”