Local linemen headed to Bolivia
Two Pee Dee Electric Cooperative (PDEC) linemen are flying to Bolivia for two weeks.
Last September, wildfires stemming from the Brazilian Amazon ravaged more than 5 million acres in Bolivia. Not only did fires burn down trees but power poles as well.
CRE (Cooperativa de Rural de Electrificación Ltda.) was established in 1962 by NRECA International (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) for rural electrification throughout Bolivia. CRE reached out to electric co-ops across America for help and PDEC in Darlington was one of the first to respond.
PDEC’s crew leader, Eugene Bryant, and first class lineman, Chris Blackmon, were eager to answer the call when they heard of the opportunity.
They had originally planned to go last November, but the trip was postponed due to political unrest in the country.
Feb. 2, the two men flew out of Charlotte and ultimately ended up in La Chiquitania, Bolivia.
This is both their first time out of the country. Both both said they’ve been wanting to do a project like this for years and were thrilled when management at the co-op presented the prospect of Bolivia.
There are other linemen from North Carolina and Arkansas who will join them on their assignment. Their tasks will consist of reconstructing power lines and poles destroyed during fires and overseeing while providing adequate training and guidance to the local linemen of Bolivia in terms of best practices, efficiency and safety.
Blackmon stated, “I am so excited for the opportunity to help folks that really need it. That’s what this job is about.”
The linemen have had many conference calls to determine what they should prepare for and how to pack.
It is considered the rainy summer season in Bolivia with near 100-degree temperatures.
Bryant said, “My wife and kids have been so supportive. They’re used to me being gone during hurricane season and to assist in other disasters, but never out of the country.” Crews have been assured that while living conditions may be a bit archaic, they are safe.
PDEC President & CEO Mike Fuller stated, “Think how PDEC just started 80 years ago bringing power to the rural areas of the Pee Dee in South Carolina and now we’re helping communities across the world. That’s the co-op way.” The co-op has already signed on for another international trip to Bolivia in 2021 to bring power to areas that have yet to receive it.