* As the chief of the Orange County Fire Department, I know well that it was Southern California Edison's well-managed size, highly trained personnel and enormous system capabilities that enabled power to be restored in record time to essential services, homes and businesses throughout areas damaged by the recent fires and earthquakes.
This critical public service role played by all utilities is something that must not be taken lightly as the California Public Utilities Commission considers a competitive restructuring of the electric utility industry.
The possibility of numerous competitive companies, more interested in making a buck than providing an essential public service, is a scary prospect to those of us in emergency service. If not done correctly, restructuring this industry will jeopardize the centralized operational efforts necessary to handle natural or civil disasters.
As demonstrated once again during the fires, Edison's ability to quickly mass hundreds of utility employees working around the clock to restore power and provide additional emergency assistance to millions of homes, hospitals, government facilities and emergency services is an enormous stabilizing force upon which police, fire and medical personnel have come to depend.
How could hundreds of new smaller, decentralized electric companies possibly do that?
I hope the CPUC realizes how much we need to rely on having immediate access to the utilities' emergency know-how, manpower, facilities and transportation operations during times of natural disasters. The CPUC should not dismantle or endanger the electric infrastructure that has served us all so well.
LARRY J. HOLMS
Director of Fire Services
Orange County Fire Department