A recent wildfire and related flooding concerns north of Flagstaff highlight how UniSource employees are prepared to help protect the public during emergencies.
Residents were ordered to evacuate from about two dozen Flagstaff homes last month to avoid the possible path of the Museum Fire, which ended up burning more than 1,900 acres. A state of emergency was declared in Coconino County and thousands of additional residents were told to prepare to evacuate the area.
UniSource natural gas employees responded on July 22 to shut off gas service to 16 homes near Mount Elden Lookout Road. Employees positioned in the field were prepared to make system adjustments that could isolate a section of the natural gas distribution system without interrupting the service of other customers.
Gas employees provided firefighters and other agencies with maps and other information about natural gas facilities in the area, allowing emergency responders to more safely and efficiently coordinate their firefighting efforts.
Evacuated residents were allowed to return home after two days. At the customers’ convenience, UniSource employees visited each home to restore service and ignite pilot lights.
“The safety of our customers and other members of the public is always our first priority. The fire showed us why continual training and communication with other agencies is critical,” said Jason Garrett, District Manager of Flagstaff Gas Operations. “We work closely with public safety agencies to monitor the fire and provide support.”
Hundreds of representatives from fire departments, emergency management agencies, school districts and other utilities attend UniSource gas safety training sessions held regularly throughout the state. The company recently completed a series of the training events and provided training and reference materials to agencies that were unable to participate.
“Many of the same firefighters, government officials and law enforcement officers that we worked with during the Museum Fire also attend our annual training workshops and tabletop exercises,” Garrett said. “It allowed us to communicate more effectively in challenging conditions.”
UniSource employees also lent their support after fire agencies expressed concern that rains could lead to flooding. The fire left a scar over a watershed that runs into a Flagstaff neighborhood, and rain was forecast later that week.
In addition to protecting pipeline facilities from possible floods, UniSource employees also took steps to protect the homes of co-workers living in vulnerable areas. More than a dozen workers spent time on and off the clock packing more than 600 sandbags for use at key gas facilities and by employees.
Later, UniSource employees filled a large trailer bed with hundreds of extra sandbags and offered them to the public, drawing words of thanks on a social media platform from the United Way of Northern Arizona.
“Our employees throughout Arizona care about the communities they serve and we’re always ready to help however we can,” Garrett said.