The entire staff of the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) has been honored with a Good Samaritan award from the Washington PUD Association for their “heroic actions to preserve property and protect the community in the face of raging wildfires” this past summer.
In nominating all their employees, the Okanogan County PUD commissioners said, “We cannot name one or two specific personnel to recognize for meritorious actions in a life threatening situation as there were many life threatening situations and many staff involved.”
They pointed to the coordination of office and field staff to preserve electric and broadband services as much as possible “by aggressively fighting fire where it threatened PUD facilities. Our crews not only protected PUD infrastructure, but selflessly protected citizen’s homes and structures when, for some employees, their own homes were in danger,” wrote commissioners Steve Houston, Ernie Bolz and Scott Vejraska in the nomination.
Despite these efforts, 216 miles of distribution line and 1,083 distribution poles were damaged, along with eight transmission structures and 18 transmission poles. Power was restored over the next several weeks by the Okanogan PUD with help from crews from the Douglas and Pend Oreille county PUDs.
The Good Samaritan awards are presented to PUD employees who demonstrated “meritorious action in a life-threatening situation.” The PUD association honored four member utilities with the Good Samaritan award at its annual conference on Dec. 3.
The association advocates for 27 not-for-profit PUDs in Washington and for Energy Northwest, a joint operating agency.