Grass Valley linemen to participate in international competition

A contingent of Grass Valley-based linemen who work for Pacific Gas & Electric will compete at the International Lineman’s Rodeo in Kansas Saturday.

An annual event, the rodeo is intended to showcase the skills that linemen employ in the course of their careers, said Brandi Ehlers, PG&E spokeswoman.

“The rodeo is a controlled situation, but linemen do it during the wind, rain and hot sun,” she said.

Steve Bentley, a Grass Valley resident, attended the rodeo last year and said he and his two other teammates — George McNeill of Manteca, and Grass Valley resident Jim Moon — have been practicing with an eye toward improving and bringing home some hardware to the Sierra Foothills.

“The fan favorite is the speed climb,” Bentley said. “You start standing on the ground and you climb a 40-foot pole as quickly as you can. It’s basically like doing a ground sprint, but you’re up in the air. It’s a 40-yard dash.”

The event is further complicated by the need to carry a raw egg in a satchel up the pole, then transfer the egg to another bag, while bringing it safely back to the start line.

“It’s typically done in about 16 seconds,” Bentley said. “But it’s not just about speed. It’s about safety.”

Bentley and Moon will join three other Grass Valley residents — Anthony Albright, Adam Beene and Jon Richard — in their quest for competitive glory.

The competition divides the contenders into teams of three, particularly for one event entitled “Hurt Man Rescue” where a mannequin simulates an injured lineman stranded amid live wires.

A member of the team must ascend a pole, de-energize the wire, climb to the mannequin and use a rope system to deliver the “hurt man” to the rest of the team.

Bentley and his cohorts, who will be competing in the 45 and older category as well as the general competition, have consistently performed the event under last year’s best time of 1:25 in practice.

“As long as there are no mistakes, we should do well,” Bentley said.

The rodeo also features two mystery events, essentially preventing the competitors from practicing so they are forced to use the teamwork, cooperation, athleticism and attention to safety they use during their jobs.

“You can’t just be sitting at home practicing,” Bentley said.

The Grass Valley teams recently won a rigorous intracompany competition against PG&E linemen from other regions, earning the right to participate in the International Lineman’s Rodeo and compete for a chance to bring home the title of world champion.

Others representing PG&E and IBEW Local 1245 at the rodeo include teams from Bakersfield, Fresno and Manteca.

A team of apprentice linemen from Livermore, Fresno and Templeton will also compete at the rodeo.

“Nothing is more important than serving our customers safely and reliably, and the International Lineman’s Rodeo is a celebration of the incredible work that our linemen do every day,” said John Parks, senior director of electric maintenance and construction at PG&E.

“These highly skilled professionals are responsible for keeping the lights on for 15 million Californians. It’s an honor to give them an opportunity to showcase their craft, and we’re confident that our crews will make us proud.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the event, with more than 200 teams from around the world competing for the title of world champion.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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The Union Updated May 9, 2014 01:50PM Published Oct 17, 2013 04:00PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.