SACRAMENTO COUNTY -- The utility worker community is grieving the loss of one of their own tonight after lineman Jairus Ayeta died while working near the Carr Fire Saturday. A neighbor and fellow lineman who knew Ayeta talked about how dangerous the work of a lineman is.
Dr. Cedric Shelby says Ayeta lived in his neighborhood for about a year and always had a smile whenever he talked to him, although he didn’t know Ayeta was a fellow lineman.
Ayeta’s death on Saturday hit the lineman community hard.
“The minute I found out that a fellow lineman died, my phone started ringing off the hook,” said Shelby.
Shelby has worked as a lineman for 25 years, even writing a book about the job called, “Life on the Line.” Shelby was shocked to hear that Ayeta, who for the past year had lived a few houses down, was the lineman who died Saturday while working near the Carr Fire.
“We talked, shared conversation together. I didn’t know he was a fellow lineman, just a good, down to earth, low key person. Every time you see him, he’s friendly, he speaks. We’d talk about what’s going on in the community, that type of thing,” said Shelby.
Friends of Ayeta say he was 21 years old and from Uganda. He worked as an apprentice lineman and was part of a PG&E crew working in dangerous terrain to restore power when he was involved in a vehicle related accident. Shelby says Ayeta’s death shows how dangerous the unsung work of a lineman is around wildfires.
“Before the firemen come out, we have to kill the power, you can’t shoot water on electricity. We are doing a number of things getting ready. Secondly, after the fire goes through, there is restoration,” Shelby explained.
Shelby says Ayeta always had a smile on his face, and though his life was cut short, he should be celebrated for his accomplishments as a lineman.
“You’d be surprised the number of people that try to become a lineman but never cut the mustard, like they say, for lack of a better word. But for him to have accomplished that from another country. He had that whole learning curve. He was able to do it and was well accomplished at 21 years old. I’m impressed,” stated Shelby.
Dr. Shelby said he plans to have proceeds from his book go to Ayeta’s family. A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Ayeta.