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Murray Journal

An electric rodeo? Murray Power has some of the best electricity wranglers

Feb 26, 2019 02:22PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray Power journeyman linemen Victor Meza and Tyler Kirkham (seen competing here) proved that they’re some of the best line workers in America. (Photo courtesy of Murray Power)

By Shaun Delliskave | s.delliskave@mycityjournals.com

It’s not your granddaddy’s rodeo where an angry bull is trying to throw you off his back, but this rodeo certainly has dangers with thousands of volts of electricity at stake. Murray Power’s journeyman linemen and arborist attained high honors this past fall in national and international events. 

Two Murray Power journeymen competed in the 2019 Intermountain Power Superintendent Association (IPSA) Lineman Hotline Rodeo, hosted in the Sun Bowl in St. George, Utah. The purpose of the Lineman Rodeo is to test linemen’s skills in a wide variety of competitions. As many as 75 participants from Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming gathered to compete for the bragging rights of being the fastest and most skilled in events such as Pole Top Rescues, Cross-Arm Change-outs, Insulator Change, and an Obstacle Course (climbing over three separate cross arms and moving insulators from one side to the other).

Murray City Power journeyman Victor Meza placed third in the Dead-end Change-out team event, and journeyman Tyler Kirkham placed second in the Obstacle Course and second in the Phase-transfer competition.

“Most of the events consisted of racing up power poles to demonstrate various skills, rescue, cross-arm change-out, and dead-end change-out under simulated energized-line conditions,” explained Meza. “The skills completion is a way for linemen to test their skills against other linemen.” 

The IPSA Hotline School is a volunteer-based education program that teaches apprentices and linemen/journeymen enhanced skills and techniques within the field of electricity. One hundred students participated in the hotline school last year. Classes available at the school include transmission, distribution, underground, and substation. The hotline school has 25 to 30 instructors who volunteer their time and resources to assist apprentices and linemen advance their education.

“Excellent school, and kudos to our two crew members for attending and doing so well. Thanks to Bruce Turner as well, our operations manager, for his presidency in the IPSA organization that sponsored this event,” said Murray Power Manager Blaine Haacke.

Lineman rodeos have gained popularity among linemen/journeymen over the past few years. Linemen are able to showcase their skills and everyday practices on a competitive level against other linemen/journeymen from throughout the state and region. Linemen from investor-owned utilities, municipalities, and cooperatives all come together to participate in these events. 

“They … entailed speed and efficiency. Trying to climb very fast and not drop anything while moving all over the pole,” noted Kirkham. Kirkham, a rookie, graduated from the pre-apprenticeship program at Salt Lake Community College in May 2018. He was hired by Murray Power in June and received his apprenticeship training in August.

“I practiced quite a bit while in school,” said Kirkham, “and whenever I could at work. I also competed in Rocky Mountain Power’s Hotline Rodeo and placed third in their obstacle course.”

Meza added, “We’ve built a training yard on our substation property. We would train a couple times a week in the months leading up the competition.”

Also taking top honors this past year was Murray Power’s perennial tree-climbing champion arborist, Jake Bleazard. He took 11th nationally at the North American Tree Climbing Championship and 17th overall at the International Tree Climbing Championship, at which he took first place in the world for the throw-line event.

Bleazard competed in five total events: work climb, speed climb, aerial rescue, ascent, and throw line. 

“My wife and our kids are an amazing support system; they have traveled with me when they can and are always at our local competitions to cheer me on,” said Bleazard. “I can’t say enough about how much my wife has always allowed me to do—what I need to do to get ready for these competitions.”