On August 3, 2018, Seattle City Light sent 19 employees and support equipment to California to assist in restoring the electrical infrastructure damaged by the Mendocino Complex fire. Four four-person line crews, three operators, a supervisor, a safety manager and a fleets manager departed from the South Service Center in SODO with large bucket trucks and digger derrick trucks that dig holes for setting utility poles. The crews are trained in construction methods for both transmission and distribution work.
Since August 5, these City Light crews have been working to restore power to homes and cellular phone towers impacted by the fire, which is now the largest in California history. They are working in mountainous terrain with narrow roads. Downed trees and other debris have made travel difficult at times. Working in smoky conditions, the crews have been using moistened cooling cloths as bandanas to filter out the smoke.
The crews start their day at 7:30 a.m. with a tailboard meeting that provides any updates on the fire. Next, they have a safety meeting. Then they receive their work assignments for the day, collect materials and supplies for the crew and depart from their staging area in Lakeport, California.
“We have enough personnel. We have enough equipment,” said South Field Operations Supervisor Ed Hill. “It is a godsend having a mechanic with us.” The mechanic has been able to make repairs to vehicles in the field, saving the crews time and getting them back to work faster.
Crews have been warmly received to the area. Along with signs thanking firefighters and first responders, they spotted one that said, “Thank you, linemen.”
PG&E, the local electric utility, has told the crews to plan to stay for at least four more days. They still want to make repairs in a neighborhood called Spring Valley, but that area is not yet safe to work in because of the fire.