T&D World Magazine

Lifeline: Ernie Dominguez

  • Born in Marfa, Texas.

  • He and his wife, Rita, of 37 years have two children, Vince and Danielle, and six grandchildren.

  • Enjoys riding his motorcycle and tending to an avocado grove on his 3.5-acre property in Temecula, California.

  • Inspired by hard work and people who are unsung heroes.

  • One boss who had a significant affect on his career as a lineman was a foreman he worked for during his apprenticeship. While the foreman was tough, he made him the lineman that he is today.

Early Years

I spent 15 years working for a steel mill, and then I got a job as a maintenance helper at a steam plant generating station in Long Beach, California. I cleaned boiler tubes and packed bearings or bushings. One day, my brother, Richard, who is a lineman, told me about an open position working for another union. In 1984, I joined Southern California Edison as an apprentice lineman, and I've been with the company ever since.

Living on the Road

As an apprentice and journeyman lineman, I worked on a traveling crew, and I was always out of town. I lived in Temecula, California, but my base was 60 miles away and I was rarely home. I worked in Arizona, Nevada and across the country. I missed raising my kids, but my wife did a wonderful job with them. My daughter is a hygienist and my son is a lineman; I'm proud of both of them. Now, I'm only based about 26 miles from Temecula, and I'm home every night. I still get loaned out to crews that have a shortage of manpower, and I still enjoy building lines, stringing wire and setting poles.

A Day in the Life

As a senior patrolman, I work with another lineman to maintain 750 sq miles in our company's service territory. I am responsible for 25 circuits, of which three are 500-kV and 22 are 115-kV lines. I still climb and do line work. I also patrol each line once a year, and I keep an eye out for all the lines. It's been a daily battle to keep people from building under our right-of-way. We've also had to take part in a lot of environmental impact studies, which can be a real challenge. Along with patrolling the area, I spend the summers washing insulators.

Working in the Desert

One time, our towers collapsed in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The towers were engineered incorrectly, and high winds blew them right over two times in a row. To prevent it from happening a third time, we retrofitted the towers with more steel so they wouldn't give out. It took a lot of money and work to put those towers back up. The linemen worked in the middle of nowhere, and if they didn't bring a lunch, they didn't eat because there was nothing out there. We also had to deal with heat exhaustion in the desert, so it was important to keep an eye on our “brothers.” When we're working in Palm Springs, California, it can get up to 122°F in the summer, and the linemen can fade quickly.

Favorite Project

The project that sticks out in my mind happened almost 20 years ago. It was called the Arrowheads Devil Canyon line, and we had to erect a power line through the mountains. We did a lot of work with ropes and hoists, and it was a challenging job. It made me a better man. It was a lot of hard work, but it was really rewarding when it was done.

Tools I Can't Live Without

Cell phones have made communication out in the field so much better. In the old days, we had radios, and now with cell phones we're able to talk to anyone anytime. This can be kind of a nuisance, though, because if we're working in the air, we can easily get distracted by a cell phone and get into trouble. There have been times I've been talking on a cell phone and have gotten too close to an energized circuit.

Another tool that I always have by my side is a hand line. In fact, I won't climb without one. I also think the bucket trucks and the rubber insulators have extended my career as a lineman. When the insulators were glass, they were heavy, and it was back-breaking work. Now that we have polymer insulators and bucket trucks, how much easier can it be?

Future Plans

While line work is a young man's game, I still enjoy it and intend to keep doing power work. Now is not the best time to retire. Someday, though, I hope to leave this company in one piece and enjoy my old age. I'll sure miss this work when I get out of here, though. Line work is a blast.

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