Last week, a crew from Mason PUD 3 helped restore power to approximately 2,400 people in Douglas County affected by the Pearl Hill Fire. The Pearl Hill Fire torched over 223,730 acres and destroyed over 300 power poles.

Left to right: Seth St. John (Heavy Equipment Operator), Blake Knutz (Journeyman Lineman), John Clements (Line Foreman), Brian Evans (Apprentice Lineman), and Matt Schlesser (Journeyman Lineman) not pictured: Ronny McIrvin (Journeyman Lineman).

The PUD 3 crew consisted of of a heavy equipment operator, journeymen linemen, a line foreman and an apprentice. The crew (pictured above) spent five days – working in smokey, dusty, and hot conditions – replacing poles. Some of those poles were unrecognizable.

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.”