Three Minnesota Power foresters are in California helping Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) inspect and clear burned and dangerous trees from power line easements in the area
affected by the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history.
Minnesota Power, an ALLETE (NYSE:ALE) company, immediately offered to send the foresters after a Nov. 20 call for personnel by PG&E, the utility that serves the region. They flew to California on Saturday, Nov. 24, and will be working in the Camp Fire area for two weeks while staying at a base camp at the Paradise Airport.
As foresters, their unique skills will be put to use inspecting trees and other vegetation along power line routes. Using specifications provided by PG&E, they are inspecting burned trees and marking them for removal, and also giving them a priority for removal based on the degree of fire damage and the clearance from power lines. This often is a critical first task after natural disasters, opening access for line crews to safely restore power.
While Minnesota Power has a history of sending crews to areas affected by hurricanes and other storms, this is the first time the company has been asked to send assistance after a wildfire.
“We’re honored to help the people of northern California recover from this devastating fire through a unique response for Minnesota Power,” said Brad Oachs, senior vice president of ALLETE and president of regulated operations. “We’re happy to share our foresters’ expertise, and they will learn about how utilities respond after a wildfire, knowledge they can add to our company’s emergency response experience. While we help PG&E and its customers, we’re also gaining knowledge that will help our employees and customers in the event of a wildfire.”
PG&E requested more than 1,200 lineworkers, 700 vegetation workers and 133 vegetation
inspectors from other utilities nationwide.
The fire has been extinguished in assigned work areas, and search and rescue team members have inspected and cleared the areas for entry. Because of the extensive fire damage, PG&E is supplying all assisting utility workers with safety equipment to protect them from breathing smoke, ash and dirt.
Minnesota Power always strives to help other energy companies when they need assistance after natural disasters and other events. Minnesota Power crews have joined hurricane responses six times in the past 13 years, traveling to Florida in 2005 after Hurricane Wilma, Ohio in 2008 after Hurricane Ike, Maryland in 2011 after Hurricane Irene, Maryland and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Florida in 2017 after Hurricane Irma, and Puerto Rico from late 2017 into early 2018 after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.