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01-20-05 Heroes in the dark

By Shelley Grieshop

  COLDWATER -- Few people were as warmly welcomed during the last two weeks as the guys who brought light to people left in the dark by the recent ice storm.

  Rob Fisher, an electric line technician for Dayton Power & Light, said none of his customers complained to him or his crew, despite the fact some were without power for days.
  "Customers were so thankful to see us, not one of them got mad at us," said Fisher of Coldwater.
  Many of the customers Fisher encountered were quite helpful such as those who pointed out problem lines that hadn't been reported, he added.
  Fisher, 60, like hundreds of other local and out-of-state linemen, saw little of their own families during the days following the storm that hit two weeks ago.  "The first day we worked straight through until 6 o'clock Thursday morning," he said.
  After eight hours rest, he climbed back into his utility truck at 2 p.m. and again worked throughout the night until 9 a.m. Friday, he said.
  "By Sunday, things were starting to settle down," said Fisher, a DP&L veteran of 37 years.
  But even then, most troubleshooters like himself were still putting in 16-hour days to get the job done.
  DP&L serves 8,800 customers in Mercer County and 2,900 in Auglaize County. Midwest Electric and other city utility companies handle the remaining bulk of local customers.
  Tom Tatham, a spokesman for DP&L, said the amount of work completed to restore power to more than 85,000 customers at the peak of the storm was nothing less than amazing.
  "We put up more than 500 new poles in 24 counties in just West Central Ohio," Tatham said. "We also laid more than six miles of new conductor."
  Many times crews would complete a job only to return a day later as new branches fell and darkened the neighborhood once again.
  Amazingly, not one of the DP&L crew or contractors was injured, even as branches fell around them without warning.
  "We'd be up there removing trees from the lines and we'd hear that crackling. Some nights it was a little scary," Fisher said. "You didn't know where it was coming from or where it was going to fall."
  Fisher said he's never personally seen ice damage so extensive and widespread.
  "We're still running into places where branches are lying on lines or the lines are hanging low from being stretched," he said.
  Working outside in whatever weather Mother Nature chooses, is just part of the job, Fisher said. Kind and understanding customers make that job much easier, he added.
  "Like the guy in Villa Nova (St. Marys) who brought us coffee late one night. I know he'd been without power for quite some time, but he also knew we'd been on the job awhile," Fisher said.
  Fisher said it wasn't unusual for he and his crew to get a few supportive pats on the back whenever they stopped for a bite to eat.
  "That kind of got to me," he added.
  All and all, it was an experience he actually enjoyed, although Fisher doesn't want to see it happen again anytime soon.
  "I'm still amazed how everyone worked together so well. That made me feel good and sure made the job more enjoyable," he said.


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