All in a Night’s Work

Benton REA and Benton PUD line crews replace a power pole at 5 a.m.

Around 5 a.m. Sunday, May 3, Foreman Lineworker Jeff Ripplinger snapped a photo of the long-awaited sunrise, signaling not the beginning of the workday, but nearing the end.

He and his crew got a call shortly after 11 p.m. the night before that a Benton PUD 115 kilovolt transmission line power pole was on fire and was about to cause an outage for both Benton PUD and Benton REA consumers. Jeff and fellow Lineworker John Richards were already near Mabton on their second outage call of the night, waiting for crew members Conor Ames and Cody Bradshaw to assist them.

Conor and Cody redirected to SR 221 to assist Benton PUD crew members who arrived just as the burning pole caused a large arc. The arc knocked out power to three Benton REA substations.

The blazing pole carrying 115-kV transmission lines belonged to Benton PUD, but it shares space with Benton REA’s crossarm and 12-kV distribution lines—what the industry calls underbuild.

“We have a good working relationship with Benton PUD,” says Operations Manager Jeff Ekrut. “We have a mutual aid agreement in place so if they need help, we will be there, and if we need help, they will come as well.”

After helping secure the scene, Conor and Cody proceeded to the outage in Mabton to make repairs while Benton PUD retrieved a replacement pole and materials.

Benton REA and Benton PUD line crews set a new power pole at 5 a.m.
Photo by Jeff Ripplinger

“It was futile to try to save the pole,” Jeff Ripplinger says.

He believes 20 to 30 feet of the 70-foot pole was destroyed before Benton PUD and the Benton County Fire Department were able to extinguish the fire.

With the Mabton outage restored, Conor, Cody, Jeff and John returned to SR 221 to help Benton PUD and finish rebuilding the distribution crossarm.

With their tools, LED headlights and dedication, Benton PUD and Benton REA crews worked through the night to clean up the scene, dig a hole, set a new pole, move wires and get electricity flowing to everyone.

Around 12:30 a.m., power was restored to two of Benton REA’s substations and 302 members impacted by the outage. The 180 members connected to the third substation were back on around 6:30 a.m.

From their first outage call at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night to wrapping up the job Sunday morning, Jeff and John watched the sun set and rise all in a night’s work.

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