Journeyman Lineman Jared Fockler of Tri-State Generation & Transmission was born in Montrose, Colorado, and has two brothers and one sister. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Jannie, for 11 years, and has a two-year-old daughter, Finley, and a baby son, Cohen. He enjoys hunting on horseback, camping, riding four-wheelers in the hills and spending time with his family.
During his career, he has learned that if you apply yourself, you can accomplish great things, even if you are not using traditional methods.
After being married for a year, I worked construction roofing and siding houses. In 2008, during the economic downturn, I met a local lineman at my gym. At that point in time, I knew nothing about line work and didn’t have the slightest idea how I got power. He encouraged me to look into the possibility of going to a line school. At the age of 23, I started attending the lineman program at Western Colorado Community College in Grand Junction, Colorado.
My first job in line work was working as a groundman for Wasatch Electric, a power line construction company in Salt Lake City, Utah. I started out working in the substations doing a lot of cad welding for the ground grid and building the infrastructure of the substation. I learned how to run the equipment and spread gravel before being pulled over to the line side. I then backfilled pole holes and ran equipment and operated the hard-line puller for pulling the wire in. I also spotted 50-lb. weights to hold down the phases.
After working for the company for a year, I applied for two other positions—one at Mountain States and another at Tri-State Generation & Transmission. I decided to go with the power company rather than the construction crew because I felt it was a better path for me due to the fact I was married, it required less travel during the apprenticeship.
Day in the Life
I now work as a journeyman lineman for Tri-State G&T, and I feel very fortunate to be on my crew, who is very motivated and driven. There are a lot of people who support us and allow us to try new things. For example, we are continuing forward with our rope access live-line/barehand program, which allows us to access conductors via rope in situations where we can’t use the big equipment. I can go from riding a four-wheeler on a patrol to inspect the power lines to changing out bells on a dead-end to doing live line work—all in the same month.
Early in my career, I had to pull a four-drum puller on the back of a 6x6 military style truck late one evening. As I set out for Wyoming, a blizzard set in. I only had to travel 80 miles, but it felt like the longest trip of my life just trying to get the equipment from one town to another. As I drove down the pass into Kemmerer, Wyoming, and looked behind me, the puller was sliding down the hill perpendicular to my truck in a complete whiteout. The foreman of the job ended up in front of me escorting me to our destination.
When you work as a groundman, you think saying no is not an option. You think you must risk everything because you are young, want to excel and get into the apprenticeship program. When I look back on that time in my life and see where I’m at now, I realize that you need to put safety first. Safety has to be number one, or you will lose everything.
During my apprenticeship, I worked on the Last Chance Fire in Colorado. We lost 27 115-kV “H” structures in a grassland fire, and I remember that there was soot everywhere. It was a very memorable time because It was the first storm job I had worked.
Learning the Skills
Oftentimes when we work in the rural areas and up in the hill country, we still climb poles, and it’s a skill that we will always take with us. Also, we must know how to perform maintenance on our lines using the barehand/hot stick method. All of our crews know how to perform energized work, and they all have the ability to perform the tasks rather than just having one single live line team.
Plans for the Future
I think if I had to do it all over again, I would have gone through the construction program for the experience and knowledge in the distribution world. I wouldn’t change anything about where I’m at now, however. I enjoy the people I work with, the things I’m able to do and the trust we are given by performing those tasks safely.
Attention linemen: Do you know of a lineman who we should profile in a future Lifeline department in the Electric Utility Operations section of Transmission and Distribution World magazine? If so, please email Amy Fischbach, Field Editor.