It all started when IBEW 1245 PG&E retiree out of San Jose, Nancy Landeros, saw a name she recognized in a newspaper article. As the first reports of the devastation and loss of homes caused by the Rocky Fire in Lower Lake hit the news, the name she recognized was that of fellow IBEW 1245 retiree Willem “Bill” Hilbrandie.
Hilbrandie had been the lone Gas Service Representative in Boron for many years, and spent a great deal of time down in Bakersfield doing Meter Reading. He had moved to his home located on his sister Dini’s property in Lake County on Rocky Creek Rd. in 1991. Last week, when they returned home from some routine shopping, Hilbrandie noticed the fire progressing in the surrounding areas. Soon after, the Fire Chief told him and his sister they had five minutes to evacuate. They quickly gathered what they could, grabbed their cell phones, some important paperwork and their four dogs, and went to the evacuation site. Hilbrandie thought it would be for just a night or so, but, to his dismay, he soon discovered that all the structures on his sister’s property — including their homes — had been destroyed.
When Nancy Landeros read in the paper that Hilbrandie’s family had lost everything, she jumped into action and got on the phone with the Union Hall.
The Hall quickly got a hold of Ken Rawles, Santa Rosa Retirees Club Recording Secretary, who quickly jumped into action and devised a plan. First, Rawles immediately contacted retiree Dean “Red” Ohlen who lives on the Lake County and asked him to try and locate Hilbrandie (no easy feat given the remote location of Hilbrandie’s property). Ohlen researched articles and newspapers until he was able to find one of Hilbrandie’s neighbors who had his cell phone number.
Then, Rawles contacted all the retirees on his Club roster and took up a collection for Hilbrandie and his family. In less than a weeks’ time, Rawles had collected over $600 in donations from fellow retirees. Ohlen coordinated with Hilbrandie to find a day and time to meet up, and on Wednesday the 12th of August, with the Rocky Fire still burning and the new Jerusalem Fire raging right next to it, Ohlen and his wife, met with Hilbrandie and his sister in Lower Lake to hand over the Retiree Club donations. Both were taken aback and overwhelmed by the generosity and well wishes coming forth from Local 1245 retirees during this terrible time.
Notwithstanding the difficult circumstances Hilbrandie and his sister are enduring. Their optimism, thankfulness and tremendous gratitude for all they still have and for all those helping them out shined through. When HIlbrandie asked how the heck anyone found him because of his remoteness, Ohlen recounted the entire story of how this day came about, and said, with the utmost sincerity, “It is a Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.”
Hilbrandie definitely thanked the IBEW and all of union folks, including Nancy Landeros, Ken Rawles and Red Ohlen, who jumped into action on their behalf, but also very much wanted to acknowledge the following:
- Their wonderful community and close neighbors who have helped so much,
- The Firefighters and CDF Crews, along with our active PG&E and Outside Line 1245 members, that continue working around the clock to respond to these devastating fires, and
- The local SPCA of Clear Lake who came through for all the animal owners displaced with supplies and food for their furry loved ones.
Hilbrandie and his family can use all the help they can get, so please give if you can. Contributions can be made online here.
–JV Macor, IBEW 1245 Business Rep