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GeoLinks Overcomes Thomas Fire Disaster With Help From Mimosa

GeoLinks Overcomes Thomas Fire Disaster With Help From Mimosa

Written by Mimosa Networks

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GeoLinks Re-Building Burned CA Tower Sites

GeoLinks Re-Building Burned CA Tower Sites

California-based GeoLinks is working to replace towers burned in the wildfires. That’s key, as the latest news indicates the return of powerful winds is making the Thomas fire dangerous again.

GeoLinks is based in Camarillo, which is in Ventura County. The company has hundreds of telecom towers in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties. GeoLinks personnel battle flames as they work to rebuild burned down sites and restore service, according to Marketing Director Lexie Olson. “Driving through Ventura was pretty surreal, lots of smoke and multiple fires visible from the street,” she wrote in a blog post, sharing the personal account of a GeoLink infrastructure technician.

“Driving up to the actual tower was disheartening at first, just because of how much was burned; one of the posts holding up the gate was completely destroyed, leaving the gate lying on the ground. It was there we first noticed a fence post smoking…but we continued on,” according to the account.

The crew got the destroyed site back up in a couple of hours but as they began their trek down the mountain, they noticed the fence post they saw smoking on their way up the mountain grew “to multiple en-flamed posts, threatening the surrounding area. We immediately turned around, went back to the tower site where we had stored a fire extinguisher, and returned to put out the fires. It was a real-life example of how quickly these fires can spread,” according to the infrastructure technician.

The GeoLinks team, some of whom lost their homes, repaired 12 destroyed sites throughout Ventura and Ojai as of December 14, accounting for more than 500 square miles of coverage area. They continue this work today.

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GeoLinks rebuilds sites with Mimosa gear as Thomas Fire burns in Southern California

GeoLinks rebuilds sites with Mimosa gear as Thomas Fire burns in Southern California

GeoLinks employees are literally putting out fires as they strive to replace damaged telecom sites throughout the area where fires are destroying homes and threatening lives in Southern California.

The company, based in Camarillo, which is in Ventura County, has been working around the clock since the Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4. At times, workers have used the fire extinguishers stored in emergency packs in company vehicles to douse hot spots they see along the way to fixing infrastructure.

As of Dec. 14, the GeoLinks team—some of whom have lost or damaged homes—had repaired 12 sites that were destroyed throughout Ventura and Ojai, accounting for more than 500 square miles of coverage area. The company uses licensed and unlicensed gear from Mimosa Networks.

“A lot of our employees live in these communities,” and they were evacuated, including one employee who was still working remotely even though he lost everything he owned, said GeoLinks employee Lexie Olson, who had to be evacuated in the middle of the night but whose home is still standing. “It’s something that is impacting our direct community in every way. It’s pretty intense.”

The company is in close communication with fire, police and National Guard teams so they know when it’s safe to go into a particular area for repairs. On Thursday, the fire took the life of a fire apparatus engineer from San Diego, the second death attributed to the blaze.

Olson estimated 40 GeoLinks people are out working in the field; the company employs about 60 and growing. In some cases, the GeoLinks gear was up and running and able to provide internet service to customers even before their electricity was restored, GeoLinks President Ryan Adams told FierceWirelessTech. That said, “we’re never going to put our employees in dangerous situations where we think they can get hurt,” he added.

Adams and CTO/co-founder Ryan Hauf were watching the situation as it started to unfold last week. “We felt it was our duty to assist folks,” to get back to normal as soon as possible, Adams said. “Our team has been working around the clock” with folks sleeping in the office and cars—but not for long. “We realize we have a responsibility as a telecommunications company to make sure that people have the ability to communicate.”

Adams said the service provider needed a workhorse and something that would support backhaul as well. “We’re big fans of the Mimosa brand,” he said. “We keep a really healthy stock of Mimosa equipment on hand.”

Mimosa’s gear works at 11 GHz licensed and 5 GHz license-free. Depending on the situation, a service provider could get Mimosa’s low-cost gear in the 5 GHz band out into the field right away, according to Mimosa co-founder and CMO Jaime Fink. Alternatively, if a client has more time, they can apply for a 11 GHz license, which may take three to four weeks per link.

Positioning itself as a disrupter going up against the “big four” carriers, GeoLinks was founded in 2011 and started offering fixed wireless internet to rural homes and people in the area who previously didn’t have access to high-speed internet, according to Adams. GeoLinks’ customers include residential and business customers; the company got its start in Ojai, which its where co-founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield was born and where many employees live.

Ojai, population around 7,461, has been particularly hard hit by the fires.

Knowing that the weather and conditions could change in an instant, they’re watching things closely. “Fortunately we have the best fire departments, we have the best rescue crews and first responders,” Adams said. “I can’t say enough about the way Ventura County has come together.”

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Thomas Fire Updates

Thomas Fire Updates

The Thomas Fire is a massive wildfire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. The fire began north of Santa Paula, near Steckel Park and Thomas Aquinas College, on December 4, 2017. It has burned approximately 252,500 acres thus far, making it already the fourth-largest wildfire in modern California history, destroying at least 930 structures, damaging more than 200 others; and forcing upwards of 100,000 residents to evacuate.

Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo

 

(Ryan Cullom / Ventura County Fire Department photo)

GeoLinks has hundreds of telecom towers located throughout the Ventura, Santa Barbara and LA counties that provide service to thousands of both urban and rural families. Within just hours of the fires’ inception, the GeoLinks’ team sprang into action, literally battling flames as they worked relentlessly to rebuild burnt down sites and restore service.

“Driving through Ventura was pretty surreal, lots of smoke and multiple fires visible from the street. Driving up to the actual tower was disheartening at first, just because of how much was burned; one of the posts holding up the gate was completely destroyed leaving the gate lying on the ground. It was there where we first noticed a fence post smoking…but we continued on.

The view on the drive up was hindered by smoke, we couldn’t see the ocean, or even the Crown Plaza. That’s when everything really hit me… to know we were celebrating and having fun on Saturday at GeoLinks’ holiday party just a couple miles away, and now we were dealing with the horrible fallout of this natural disaster. It was a wild juxtaposition of mindsets to comprehend just over the span of a few days…

From the top of the mountain, the view was incredible, in a very somber way. Smoke spread in every direction, winds whipping sand and ash all around us. Although, we knew what we were doing was important, so we got to work and had the completely destroyed site back up and running in just a couple hours. We then started our trek back down the mountain when we noticed that same smoking fence had grown to multiple enflamed posts threatening the surrounding area. We immediately turned around, went back to the tower site where we had stored a fire extinguisher, and returned to put out the fires. It was a real-life example of how quickly these fires can spread…” — Personal Account Shared from GeoLinks’ Infrastructure Technician.

To date, the GeoLinks team has already repaired 12 destroyed sites throughout Ventura and Ojai accounting for more than 500 square miles of coverage area. However, the Thomas Fire continues to wreak havoc at only 35% containment requiring the GeoLinks’ team to continue to work around the clock to maintain service.

Outside of the field, many GeoLinks employees have been personally affected by the fire as well, some even losing their homes. Ultimately, this ongoing natural disaster has affected both the company and surrounding communities in every way possible.

Check back soon for further updates, but in the meantime please visit the below link if you wish to support and give back to those directly affected by the Thomas Fire. Created by GeoLinks’ employees Lexie Olson and Lindsey Ditchfield, 100% of proceeds of these “Ventura County Strong” shirts will be donated to Ventura County residents directly affected by the Thomas Fire.

VenturaCountyStrongShirt.com

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