MARIPOSA COUNTY — We know all about firefighters working in dangerous conditions on wildfires, but there are other crews out there as well.
Over the last 10 days on the Detwiler Fire, more than 500 PG&E workers and contractors were assigned the task of repairing lines and infrastructure, replacing poles, and getting people back online as quickly as possible. Often before the fire has cooled off in the area.
Today PG&E began demobilizing their base camp on the fire and releasing some out-of-area crews. Tuesday night they restored electric service to the remaining customers who could be restored.
“Since the fire began, more than 11,000 customers lost electric service due to fire damage, and more than 500 PG&E workers and contractors responded,” says PG&E spokesperson Denny Boyles. “They worked in difficult terrain, challenging environmental conditions and amidst ongoing fire suppression efforts to help our customers return to a more normal life. We are not done yet.”
As of Tuesday, July 25, PG&E had 386 employees and 148 contractors dedicated to fire response and safety.
When the Detwiler Fire broke out on July 16, PG&E says they immediately began coordinating with Cal Fire to determine the projected path of the fire and its potential impact on PG&E’s energy infrastructure.
The 25-gallon red tank of fire retardant on the back of this PG&E truck was used to decrease wildfire damage by proactively spraying fire retardant on the bottom portion of power poles that were in the fire zone.
PG&E says they pre-treated 300 poles to prevent them catching fire, and all but one 3-pole structure survived the blaze. In the Pendola Gardens area, 27 red-tinged poles and untouched vegetation, colored by the retardant, stand out in the charred landscape.
“Pre-treating poles ensures faster power restoration times and minimizes damage,” said Brett Dahlem, PG&E’s maintenance and construction electric coordinator. “We don’t have to replace hundreds of poles because of this work and customers have power.”
The power poles are treated with retardant mixed with water and sprayed by a hose. It is the same retardant used in firefighting plane drops and lasts until the rainy season.
PG&E says this proactive work is saving them and their customers tens of thousands of dollars. Pre-treating a pole with retardant costs about $20; replacing a damaged or destroyed pole runs about $20,000.
Boyles says PG&E will reach out to those customers whose homes or businesses were damaged or destroyed by the fire to ensure them that when repairs are complete, PG&E will be ready to restore their service.
“We have made a $15,000 donation to the American Red Cross to support their disaster relief efforts: $10,000 to the Gold Country Region and $5,000 to the Central Coast Region,” says Boyles. “Their efforts to help residents displaced by this fire and other emergencies are vital.
“We greatly appreciate the work of our partners at Cal Fire, the Mariposa County Sheriff, the California Highway Patrol, the Red Cross and every other public safety and community agency that responded to fight this fire and assist our customers. We are proud to work at their side.”
(Source: The July 25 edition of Currents).