A ride with an electric utility troubleman

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Troublemen and Troublewomen work every day. But, for the next 5 days of the coming heat wave, there are going to be a lot of heat related emergencies. So, come take a ride with Ignacio "Nacho" Araquistain. For 34 years now, he has been a PG&E Troubleman, going from site to site, fixing problems.

Because disaster can strike at any time, he's also been pretty much on call, 24/7. "You know, you have people out of power and people are struggling and suffering, and to get their power back on and closing those fuses and watching the lights come on is really fulfilling. You know, gives you that extra effort to do do things," says "Nacho" Araquistain.

Before we rode along, he was already on an early morning call to repair an outage. "One of my arch enemies is mylar balloons. We get balloons in the lines and they wreak havoc," says Araquistain.

Next, a call to a downed line, which, all too often, like tis, turns out to be a telephone or cable line. The man who called it in was taking no chances. "Let's just call PG&E first, you know, just to make sure and I called them and I told them I wasn't sure and they said, 'We're just gonna send someone out to make sure,'" said San Lorenzo resident Roy Cormier.

His neighbor agrees. "It's part of public safety and I think that's a good thing to do. Until they find out exactly what it is, I would go ahead and do it, cut it down, be careful on the safe side," said Mike Baird. IT happens all the time. "We're able to respond much quicker than the the phone and cable company. so, of course, we want to be there first if it is our line. and then make it safe for the public as quick as possible," said the Troubleman.

When the heat wave starts and last well through next Monday, the workload changes substantially; mostly emergency repairs and other things that have to be done to get the power back on. As electrical equipment bakes all day and with nights not very cool, some equipment fails in the third day and beyond.

By Saturday, PG&E Troublemen and Troublewomen will settle into a heavy schedule. "Sixteen on, eight off to try to help with rest ,to rest the crews and rest them twice because fatigue will set in and then you're working in hazardous conditions as is," said Mr. Araquistain. Nonetheless, the Troublemen and Troublewomen are a breed apart.

"We're a little bit of adrenaline junkies. When we have that major burn scene or we have that poll on fire or wore down and things are sparking, you brain starts working and it's that adrenaline that's fun. And not only that, it's very satisfying, you know, you're serving the public. You're doing something for somebody," said the Troubleman who will be very busy until the heat wave wanes.

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