Power linemen demonstrate swiftness, skill and safety at ‘Rodeo’

At their training yard, we saw linemen make their death-defying work look like an aerial ballet. Take a look at this unique competition …

Cliff Campbell Zeek McCarthy of Clark Public Utilities replace an insulator

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
People driving on east Powell Valley Road might have been puzzled when they saw workers racing up and down a forest of utility poles, hanging from bucket trucks, and doing maintenance work atop high-voltage lines.

What they were seeing wasn’t a power crisis – it was 14th Annual Pacific Northwest Lineman’s Rodeo. Considered one of the most challenging lineman’s rodeos in the country, this competition takes place each year – right here – on the outer east edge of Portland.

“This event gives linemen around the Northwest the chance to show off their skills,” explains event chair Rob Wales. “The teams also get bragging rights among one another, while they show people what they do every day as part of their job.”

Not all participants are linemen. The wife of a lineman, Becky Cersovski, learns how challenging it is to climb a wooden utility pole using boot spikes.

We watch an event in which the linemen change insulators that keep live power lines from shorting out on the utility poles. They work swiftly; the events are timed. “More than speed and agility,” commented Wales, “safety is the primary thing. Judges make sure all safety procedures are followed – it’s part of the grading system.”

Specifically, contestants are judged by the following criteria: Safety; work practice; neatness and ability; equipment handling – and timely competition of the event (that one is used only as a tie-breaker).

Waiting their turn, Portland General Electric linemen Ed Hatanpa, Josh Rinard, and Adam Blackwell get ready for their next event.

Event winners from this regional competition, Wales adds, will advance to the 24th Annual International Lineman’s Rodeo & Expo World Championships, later this year, in Overland Park, Kansas.

More than 80 linemen from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and other western states participated in the event. IBEW Local 125, IBEW Local 659, PGE, Pacific Power and Clark Public Utilities sponsored the event.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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