(SHELTON, WA) -- When the call for help comes, our Mason PUD 3 team is ready to answer. One great thing about public power is the partnerships and mutual aid. When the Pearl Hill Fire torched over 223,730 acres and destroyed over 300 power poles leaving approximately 2,400 customers in the Douglas PUD service territory out of power, Douglas PUD called for mutual aid.
On Sunday, September 13, about the time the Seahawks game started, Mason PUD 3 had a crew packing equipment and preparing for the 5-hour drive to Douglas County. For the next five days, this crew consisting of a heavy equipment operator, journeymen linemen, a line foreman and an apprentice would work throughout the day and into the night in smokey, dusty, and hot conditions to replace poles that in some cases were unrecognizable.
Each evening, line foreman, John Clements, would send photos of their day back home creating a well-documented snapshot of their experience. On the last day, Thursday, September 17, the photo was titled “last pole,” telling a story of exhaustion and accomplishment.
The Mason PUD 3 crew was joined by over 120 linemen, including contractors as well as other utilities throughout Washington state as part of the mutual aid agreement between public power utilities.
Mutual aid is just what it sounds like — utilities helping each other in times of need. When (and even before) a major disaster hits a utility’s territory and the utility knows that its own crews and equipment won’t be enough to restore power quickly, it calls for mutual aid. It provides its best estimate of how many people it needs and what type of skills they should have. The utility also specifies equipment and material needs. Other utilities in the network respond with what they can offer. The utility that is requesting mutual aid must make arrangements to house, feed and care for the crews that come in from outside and provide them the necessary work/safety briefings to do their jobs effectively. Typically, the utility requesting help pays other utilities that send help.
PUD 3 Operations Manager Chris Miller said, “I'm sure proud of our employees and how they represented Mason 3's core values, etc.”
Annette Creekpaum, the PUD’s general manager, followed up with, “I was looking at those pictures and thought, ‘Wow this is going to be a lot of work!’ We all echo the feeling of being proud of our crew over there. Once again, Mason PUD 3 was represented well. We have the best team. “
As community-owned resources, public power utilities are committed to improving the resiliency of their systems, responding expeditiously to disasters, and restoring service as quickly as possible.