Two journeymen lineman from Douglas were amongst a crew of Arizona Public Service employees who recently returned from California where they assisted PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) in the maintenance of their utility lines during the fire that was burning throughout the state.
Mitchell Elmer and Chuey Elias have been with APS two and three years, respectively. Both men volunteered for this assignment, which took place the last week of October. Their average work day lasted 14-15 hours.
Elias described what he and Elmer went through as a “great experience,” adding they met some really nice people and the utility company they were assisting treated them both really well.
“We didn’t really see any of the (fire) damage first hand,” Elias said. “We were pretty much away from the fires and devastation. We were pretty much patrolling lines, making sure they were clear of debris. We were to make sure when they reenergized lines that nothing was going to happen.”
“We were informed when we got there were going to be dealing with (their) customers, patrolling lines through their yards and stuff and they may not be too happy to see us,” Elmer said. “We got just the opposite. Their customers were super happy with us being there. The company that we were supporting was happy to have us. As far as our end of the work goes, we got treated very well. It was good work”
Elmer said the closest they got to the fire was patrolling a line that needed to be deenergized in an area the firefighters were going into.
“It was pretty cool to watch,” he said. “The helicopters were flying in. It was something you don’t see every day, that’s for sure. It was a lot of work. We had no trouble staying busy, but it was also a great experience.”
Both APS employees said, based on what they experienced this last time, they would have no problem returning to California to assist if the need arose.
So, what does a journeyman lineman do?
“We maintain and update our power lines,” Elias said.
“We do the backbone of the powerline work, all the overhead and underground construction, maintenance,” Elmer added. “You’ll see us climb the poles, run the bucket trucks. We run all the equipment that has anything to do with the powerlines.”
In seeing what APS has compared to PG&E, Elmer said APS does a good job of maintaining their lines and constantly checking for areas that may be weak and in need of repair.
“So, when we do our fire mitigation its not as radical because our lines are maintained,” he said.
Matt Riesgo, Douglas’ APS manager, said he understands the sacrifice Elmer and Elias made, taking off a week away from their families to go assist others in another state.
“It was a lot to ask for,” he said. “These guys went above and beyond. In addition to helping others, we also make sure to take care of our hometowns too.”