Thirty employees of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawai`i Electric Light have headed to fire-devastated Northern California to help Pacific Gas & Electric Company restore power to thousands of customers. It’s the first time the companies are dispatching workers to a mainland disaster through its mutual assistance agreement with western regional utilities.
Five overhead line crews consisting of a working foreman and four journeymen – one crew each from Hawaii Electric Light and Maui Electric, and three from Hawaiian Electric – will help rebuild and fire-damaged electrical infrastructure in Butte County, Calif. A supervisor from each company, a superintendent and a safety technician will accompany the crews.
As members of the Western Region Mutual Assistance Group, the Hawaiian Electric Companies stand ready to assist other member utilities with workers and equipment during emergencies. Until now, the western region utilities have first turned to closer mainland members for help. But because many mainland utilities are still working in areas damaged by hurricanes in Florida and the southeast, PG&E asked for help from Hawai`i.
“This is what mutual assistance looks like – answering the call to help with volunteers who are among our companies’ most capable line workers. And if we ever need help, workers from mainland utilities like PG&E will be answering the call,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “Our employees know they volunteered to work long shifts in unfamiliar territory under physically challenging conditions. We’re asking them to be mindful about their situations and to make safety a top priority.”
Under an existing agreement between utilities, Hawaiian Electric Companies will be reimbursed by PG&E for all travel and labor expenses. The crews will be assisting PG&E for three weeks, working 16-hour shifts.
The Camp Fire, which started November 8 in Butte County, is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, causing more than 80 deaths and burning nearly 154,000 acres.