Lending a Helping Hand to New Mexico

SCE sends crews to aid in restoration efforts after fires leave thousands in New Mexico without power.
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Stories : Safety

Lending a Helping Hand to New Mexico

SCE sends crews to aid in restoration efforts after fires leave thousands in New Mexico without power.

As wildfires continue to burn across New Mexico, 20 Southern California Edison lineworkers have made the 11-hour trip from Palm Springs, ready to help Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) rebuild its equipment and restore power to thousands of residents.

The response comes after the New Mexico utility called on the Western Region for mutual assistance. Including SCE, 40 crews from neighboring states have answered that call and will aid PNM.

Fire restoration work is something we are very familiar with in California,” said SCE journeyman lineman Lance Herzig. “Our main focus going in is doing what we can for the people that live in New Mexico who are without power.”

Herzig is part of the five SCE crews who volunteered for this assignment. They will be following in the wake of devastation from two fires that scorched over 25,000 acres, replacing poles, stringing wire and rebuilding lines as they go. So far, more than 500 homes have been destroyed and 1,500 poles burned.

The crews huddle for the morning tailboard for their first 16-hour day to help tackle the damage in New Mexico.
Crews huddle for a morning safety tailboard to start their first 16-hour day helping repair damaged electrical equipment in New Mexico.

“It’s dirty, it’s dusty, it’s an ugly set of circumstances and tough working conditions, but our crews are uniquely equipped to handle and respond,” said Thomas Jacobus, SCE principal manager of Business Resiliency. “One of the greatest things about the electric utility industry is how well-practiced it is to help each other in times of need.”

“We're used to doing fire hardening work at home, we’ve done different training and we’re equipped with fire tools, so while there are always unknowns and every utility is different, we’re prepared to adapt and overcome any hiccups along the way,” Herzig said.

Before sending mutual assistance resources, SCE analyzes the current conditions in its service area. After ensuring there are no current threats, they determine the amount of manpower they can provide.

In this case, the team members will be on loan to PNM for one to two weeks with the possibility of extending based on the damage assessment from fire crews and SCE’s fire management team. While the percentage of personnel sent is small enough not to impact SCE operations, they can always get called home early in case of an emergency.

Five SCE crews of 20 lineworkers volunteered to aid in restoration efforts in New Mexico.
Five SCE crews of 20 lineworkers volunteered to aid in restoration efforts in New Mexico.

“Mutual assistance is something that our lineworkers take pride in. It is some of the most rewarding work that lineworkers can do and is something they will remember for the rest of their career,” said John Perry, SCE principal manager of Distribution, who is leading the crews.

SCE crews are prepared to move quickly, planning to work 16 hours a day and seven days a week to help tackle the damage. The crews are paid by the utility requesting assistance, not SCE customers.

“Even though SCE hasn’t needed to request mutual assistance in almost 20 years, we understand there may come a day when a large-scale event outpaces our ability to respond,” Jacobus said. “If that happens, we know that our neighboring utilities will extend us the same help we are giving to them now.”

For more information on SCE’s wildfire safety efforts, visit sce.com/wildfire.