NPL’s First Non-Gas ‘Project of the Year’

In September, 2010, a wildfire started west of Boulder, Colorado, in the Four Mile Canyon. After the 11 days it took to contain it, the fire had burned over 7,000 acres of forest and destroyed 169 homes, making it the worst wildfire in Colorado history. The fire’s destruction also left over 900 homes without power. Xcel Energy was immediately tasked with restoring power to these homes and rebuilding the area’s electrical infrastructure. To help with this critical task, Xcel called upon NPL.

NPL’s electrical division out of Denver was issued a rebuild assignment for a particularly difficult area called Melvina Hill. After waiting several weeks just for snow to clear enough to allow a site check, it became clear that this job would be a challenge. Three crews under the leadership of foremen Matt Depew, Manuel Gonzalez Jr. and Rick Evans were deployed.

Using heavy equipment was not an option. The 6 ½ foot deep holes for the poles had to be dug through solid rock using shovels, spoons, banjos and a jackhammer. Foreman Rick Evans and his crew were first to get the digging underway. Meanwhile, crews led by foremen Matt Depew and Randy Case began hauling poles from the bottom of the mountain to the top. With only a narrow forest service road to provide access, a backhoe hauled each pole, one at a time. Once at the top, getting the poles into actual position posed a separate challenge. Crews rigged rollers and ropes down the mountain side using trees and rocks as anchors to slowly and safely move each pole into place. Once in place, poles were then pre-drilled and framed for setting. (Below: Using innovation and the environment, the poles are moved down the mountain to their setting positions.)






Working with pole pikes and a crutch in this challenging terrain made hand-setting the poles safely a slow, meticulous process, with each pole taking 2-3 hours. One by one, the job progressed. When the last pole was set, Matt Depew’s crew began hiking in all the hardware and gear to build the poles. Each pole then had to be climbed to hang the hardware (except for one, which is pictured at the top of the post). Rollers had to be hung, and tag lines had to be hung down for the mainline. A crew led by Manuel Gonzalez joined the effort to pull the mainline in and out of each roller until reaching the top where the wire could be attached to the mainline and pulled back through. After all the wire was up in the air and brought to its final sag, crews were split into three groups to leap frog each other in order to install the armor rods, place the line into the glass, tie it all in and then remove the rollers. (Below: Poles are set using pole pikes and a crutch. After, the poles are climbed to install hardware.)









When the last pole was tied in, foremen and lineman assessed the job from fuse to mountain top and then back down again. (Below: The entire pole line, down and up.)

With inspection passed, all crew members took part in closing the fuse to energize the new line and bring the job to completion. In overcoming the challenge of the project with a quality result and zero injuries or near misses, this was a major accomplishment for all involved. In recognition of his crews and their great work in the worst of conditions, general superintendent Jerry Hueske submitted the project for NPL’s Project of the Year. When it was selected, it became the first non-gas project to receive the honor.



Matt Depew, Randy Case, Justin Hueske, Mike Herrod

Manuel Gonzalez Jr., Tim McCreary, Alex Dixon, Baltazar Villalobos

Rick Evans, Cyrus Caldwell, Gilberto Rivas, Jose Miramontes, Samuel Casillas, Jose Castaneda, Pedro Munez