Up to 70 PSEG employees — 29 from Long Island — have answered a call for help from their counterparts at a California utility that supplies power to homes and businesses near the wildfires that have wreaked untold damage in the region.
Anthony Gianelli, 33, an area supervisor based in PSEG Long Island’s Roslyn yard, said he was honored to assist some of the victims of a series of wildfires that have swept across the state, prompting authorities to place as many as 26 million people from California to Arizona under “red flag” warnings.
“We do smell the fire,” he said. “We don’t see anything visually — but we can smell it."
Gianelli has volunteered to assist on other occasions when utilities coping with disasters issue a national call for mutual assistance. Elizabeth Flagler, spokeswoman for PSEG Long Island, said the California company, Pacific Gas and Electric, was asking for up to 1,000 line workers to help them battle the effects of the wildfires.
Gianelli said he once helped Central Hudson Power and Light upstate near Newburgh, and also in response to National Grid’s call for help after an ice storm in Massachusetts.
“It’s all about the customer,” said Gianelli of Queens, who has worked for utilities serving Long Island for 12 years — Keyspan, National Grid and PSEG Long Island. He said expects to be in California for about a week.
The PSEG team from Long Island and New Jersey traveled to Grass Valley, north of Sacramento, on Monday. That night, as many as 400 utility workers from across the country attended a training session held by PG&E, which provides natural gas and electricity to 16 million people in northern and central California.
They were examining power lines for damage as early as 5 a.m. Tuesday, he said, to determine whether they can be restored.
PG&E had turned power off to as many as nearly a million homes and businesses as a precaution against the hot, dry weather and winds that could spark more wildfires.
“We were doing line patrols to make sure that there’s no potential issues or potential hazards that could cause fire,” Gianelli said, adding that PG&E will make the call whether to restore power to the lines.
Gianelli said his experience has been rewarding already.
“I’m extremely happy,” he said of the mission, adding that he met a woman on the plane to California who had no power for about five days.
"She didn’t know who I was or why I was there, and I started to explain," Gianelli said. "And she couldn’t be any more happy that we were on our way . . . It feels good to be here.”