Wanted: Santa Cruz Fiber Champions



Do you have a passion for lightning-fast internet? Do you like the idea of watching your favorite YouTube videos in crystal clear HD? Or, how does getting that massive file to your coworkers in a matter of seconds instead of hours sound? If this has you saying: “Golly gee, how can I be a part of making this a reality for everyone in Santa Cruz?” Then we want your help!

We’re looking for enthusiastic internet lovers like yourself to become part of our Fiber Champions Team.  Santa Cruz Fiber is going to be building out our gigabit-fast fiber network block by block, and we need your help to spread the word.

Our next meeting of the Fiber Champions is happening this Tuesday (tomorrow) starting at 6pm at Cruzio’s building downtown (newcomers welcome!). We’ll have an overview of the project, followed by a discussion about how we can spread the word about this amazing service to as many people as possible. And, of course, there will be pizza and beer to sweeten the deal.

If you want to become a fiber champion, or even if you are just a little fiber-curious, please come join us! You can RSVP through our Facebook page so we know how much pizza and beer to bring. We look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Santa Cruz Fiber: The Top 10 Reasons Fiber Generates a Business ROI


Here at Santa Cruz Fiber, we spend a lot of time talking to businesses about the importance of high-speed internet, and the return on investment (ROI) opportunities that they can expect should they switch to gigabit fiber. After all, for businesses it’s all about the bottom line right? Well if you want to save money and improve the quality of your products and services, here are the top 10 reasons to switch to a dedicated fiber connection. (Hint: Did we mention it’s faster, better and cheaper than anything else out there?)

1. It’s Wayyyyy Faster

How much faster? Try 10 – 100 times faster, at least. And no, you didn’t misplace the decimal point, It Is That Fast. Typically your standard cable connection is going to get you anywhere between 20 to 100 mbps (and that’s being really generous), while DSL gets you 10-25 mbps. Santa Cruz Fiber offers gigabit speeds (that’s 1000 Megabits) and is infinitely scalable from there…. How fast is that? Think of being able to download or upload an entire HD movie in one second.  Woah. It’s also cheaper, but we will talk more about that later.

2. Internet is Essential to the Modern Workplace

Two business colleagues shaking hands across the table in congratulations during a multiracial business meeting at a conference table in the office

It’s pretty much a given now that most white collar jobs (and even many blue collar jobs) have to make use of the internet to be effective. So why wouldn’t you want to maximize their productivity? Just kidding, of course you do.

According to a recent Pew Research Survey, roughly 94 percent of all working adults used the internet regularly as an essential part of their work. Furthermore, greater access to the internet has been found to be directly correlated to higher rates of productivity and the number of hours worked. Bottom line: Your Employees Need It, Therefore You Need It. We All Need It. Even these generic businesspeople in the stock photo above need it!

3. It’s More Secure

One of the lesser known benefits of fiber internet, while still being extremely important, is that Fiber is much more secure than either a Cable or DSL connection. Whereas cable lines have been shown to be capable of hijacking with ease by that one guy down the street with miraculously free television, Fiber can only be circumvented by physically cutting into the line itself. It also gives you the bandwidth for your other security needs, too: cameras and alerts that can stream to your home computer, so you know right away when an alarm is serious.

4. Fiber is More Reliable

Remember that time too many people in your neighborhood tried to watch Netflix at the same time? Or maybe even that one time your internet stopped working for, like, no reason? That just won’t happen with Fiber. Even if every person in your household tried to stream an HD movie on all of their devices simultaneously, you wouldn’t see a drop in performance. Many traditional telecommunications methods are literally dependent on which way the wind is blowing, as the most common type of interference is electromagnetic.

5. Flexibility, On All Fronts

One of the most important attributes of a modern company is its ability to adapt to new challenges and changing circumstances. Fiber provides that flexibility in ways you probably never thought possible. Is traffic to and from work killing company morale? Try telecommuting. Think your sales team needs to live near the manufacturing plant to review product specs? Think again. With fiber you can manage your entire company on the go, avoiding unnecessary office trips while staying on task in the comfort of your own home.

6. New Technology Assumes You Have The Internet to Handle It

This isn’t your grandfather’s workplace anymore. Now, your average worker spends a typical day navigating between word processing, spreadsheets, .pdfs, and video chat, all without closing their internet browser. Add onto this all of the cloud applications and digital storage you are probably using, and the extent of your reliance on light speed ones and zeros should be pretty apparent. And software is getting more dependent on fast internet every day — imagine how it’ll be a few years from now!

7. Symmetric Bandwidth!

First off what is it? It’s being able to download and upload things at the same speed. Why is this important? Well with Cable and DSL connections you can only upload things at a tenth of the speed of your downloads. So what happens if you need to send in an important presentation in advance of a meeting? Or maybe you need to send a large data file to a customer? Cue that Jeopardy music… If you had fiber, you could have uploaded that file 10 times over by the time you finished reading this sentence.

8. It’s Cheaper

While we mentioned this a bit earlier in the article, it’s worth mentioning again how much cheaper Fiber is per unit of bandwidth than Cable or DSL. While a dedicated Gigabit per second of Fiber and your standard business cable option are going to be around the same price (~$100/month), the fiber is at minimum 10 times faster, and comes with infinite scalability (no further installation required). You buy it once, and forget about it. There is no penalty for cancellation. You don’t have to buy a new cable box every year. And we won’t reroute you to Bangladesh to save money on customer service. More time = less money spent.

9. Happier Employees

While this may not seem like the most direct benefit of a fiber connection, it certainly matters to your bottom line. Employees with greater internet access are more productive, and are statistically more likely to be in a better mood in the office. It’s not just about avoiding the dreaded “buffering” message when looking at cat videos. It’s about a seamless work environment where employees can maintain their focus and feel empowered in their jobs. The real bottom line: happy employees means more productivity, which means it’s really you who is the happy one.

10. Happy Customers

This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but just in case you forgot who makes the world go ‘round: it’s your customers. And boy are they something more than sophisticated, and certainly an impatient bunch.

Customers expect “it” (whatever it is you sell or provide), to work perfectly. All the time, every time. The second your website doesn’t respond to a mouse click, or you have to explain that you’re experiencing “technical difficulties” with a shoulder shrug, is the exact moment you begin to lose legitimacy. The customer is always right for a reason, and that reason is they don’t have to be your customer.

The bottom line: Make the investment. Get Fiber. Get Customers. It’s that simple.

2016 At Cruzio: Fiber, Fire, and Faster Internet

2016 has been a wild ride for us here at Cruzio Internet. It’s been a year of growth and action for us, as we expanded our network to be better than it’s ever been before, and prepared ourselves for one of our most important projects yet. Now that the year is almost over, we wanted to give all of you a look back at the last 12 months at Cruzio, and peek at what lies ahead for 2017.

We announced the beginnings of the Santa Cruz Fiber project


Probably the biggest project on everyone’s minds here is the grand step we’re taking to bring the future of internet to Santa Cruz County: Santa Cruz Fiber. Early this year, we announced the beginning of the project, with the goal of providing affordable, next generation broadband to every home and business in the city of Santa Cruz.

Over the course of the year, we’ve teamed up with a number of different organizations to take the bold step towards a “fiber future” early next year. We announced that the first part of the project will be bringing gigabit speeds to around 1000 homes and businesses in Downtown Santa Cruz, then expanding outward from there. And if YOU want to be a part of bringing gigabit internet to Santa Cruz, you can fill out our survey here!

We made our growing network bigger than ever


It’s been a year of expansion and exciting firsts for our hybrid fiber-wireless broadband network. In July, we launched the first commercially-available gigabit service in Santa Cruz. At 1000 Megabits per second, that’s way, way faster than anything else available! “This has been our goal for the last few years,” said Cruzio’s Director of Technology & Infrastructure, Chris Frost. “We’ve been rapidly deploying the latest in new technology and have been able to get speeds up to this benchmark level quicker than even I hoped.”

A couple of months earlier, in partnership with Siklu and the City of Santa Cruz, we were able to upgrade 15 buildings to gigabit speeds. The Tannery, Loudon Nelson, the Civic Center, City Hall and the Riverwalk Apartments are all among the buildings that  have the fastest internet in Santa Cruz. Along the way, we’ve also added dozens of great local businesses to our network, including Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Somagenics, Fullpower Technologies, and the Watsonville Film Festival.

We got a new sign!



Cruzio’s HQ at the old Sentinel Building has been a downtown landmark for years of course. But in September, we became even easier to find with the addition of our shiny, beautiful new silver sign. You may have seen it if you’ve taken a stroll along Cedar Street.

Our Business Broadband service turned out to be faster than we thought

Thanks to your excellent field technician, Parker Alwardt, who created the graph

Thanks to your excellent field technician, Parker Alwardt, who created the graph

When describing our Business Broadband service earlier this year, we underestimated our own capabilities. We described the service as getting “up to 30 megabits per second” in speed. As it turns out, and as you can see in the graph above, most users are actually getting 50 megabits or more…with a good number getting as much as 90! As we look toward our fiber future, it’s worth remembering that fiber already exists in Santa Cruz through our various other products, including our hybrid wireless-fiber network. We’re already using fiber technology to bring in excellent speeds like these to people throughout Santa Cruz County. Fill out an inquiry here to find out if you’re eligible.

We Fought to Stay Connected during the Loma Fire

An eagle watches over the Loma Fire.

An eagle watches over the Loma Fire.

On September 26th, disaster struck in the Santa Cruz mountains. As firefighters scrambled to get the Loma Fire under control, back here at Cruzio we were also nervously watching the blaze. At first, we looked on as anyone else would; worrying about the people, pets and animals who might be affected. But as hours passed, the wildfire started approaching an important facility at the top of Loma Prieta where we’ve spent years building infrastructure.

View of the Loma Fire from Cruzio's security cameras, 8:36PM

View of the Loma Fire from Cruzio’s security cameras, 8:36PM

What followed was a saga of late nights, early mornings, and close calls as our excellent technicians worked to keep the power for our equipment on, so they could make sure as few people as possible would see issues with their service. We didn’t completely avoid an outage, but the number of people affected was small and the effect was brief. The real heroes were the firefighters who worked around the clock for weeks at a time to stop the fire, and keep the damage at a minimum. If you want to read about the full saga of Cruzio and the Loma Fire, you can read our comprehensive breakdown (and see more of the incredible pictures from the scene of the fire) right here.

Loma Fire road block September 27th

Loma Fire road block September 27th


We welcomed a big new team member

Our new bucket truck "Number 88"

Our Director of Technology, Chris Frost, takes the bucket truck for a ride

Getting up to the top of tall buildings can be a difficult process for our field operations team So, last month we welcomed the newest member of our team: the Cruzio Bucket Truck — otherwise known as Number 88. So if you’ve got a very tall building, expect to see our new truck working hard with our team to make sure you have the fastest possible internet.

We held our 6th annual Open House Extravaganza


As we’ve done every year for the past 5 years, we welcomed thousands of people to our coworking and technology hub to come party with us at Open House Extravaganza 6.0. Our works members showed off their passions and projects, as the Santa Cruz community walked in to drink free beer from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, eat fantastic food from the Ate3One food truck, and listen to great music from Full Moon Rooster (featuring Cruzio’s own Field Operations Lead, Ariel Carter.) The real stars of the event, however, were our Cruzioworks members, who did a fantastic job showing off the projects they’re doing in our coworking space everyday.

Full Moon Rooster played bluegrass tunes all night long

Full Moon Rooster played bluegrass tunes all night long

Sales and Marketing Associate Brian is ready to enjoy a delicious Philly Cheesesteak at the Ate3One Food Truck.

Sales and Marketing Associate Brian is ready to enjoy a delicious Philly Cheesesteak at the Ate3One Food Truck.

And we’re looking forward to 2017

As we look ahead to 2017, there are even bigger changes coming to both Cruzio, and the Santa Cruz community. Early next year, we will launch our Santa Cruz Fiber initiative in earnest, with the goal of bringing gigabit fiber internet to all of Santa Cruz County. We will begin construction soon. So as we take a look back at everything we’ve done in 2016, we’re looking forward to making 2017 the best year yet!
Happy Holidays, and a Fantastic New Year to you from: Chris, Peggy, Mark, Paul, James, another Chris, Sandi, Ralph, Colin, Adia, Jesus, Alison, Dan, Morgan, Ariel, Justin, Andrew, David, another David, Alex, Brooke, Parker, Ani, Max, Josephine, Iasha, Josh, Laurie, Robert, Alana and Brian;

our fantastic interns & apprentices: Cameron, Rafferty,

and Jake, Annika & Carly (the grown “kids”)


In Memoriam: Doug Ross

Our coworker and friend Doug Ross passed away last week. He was a member of the Cruzio community for many years, and being forced to speak of him in the past tense is hard.

Doug at his marine mammal rescue post

Doug at his marine mammal rescue post

Doug was a big man: strong, tall, enormously talented; generous, with a great big heart. He enriched what he touched and improved what he joined.

How to describe all that Doug did for us and for the world?

His art. We know his print-making best, but Doug could work in so many media. He once brought a beautiful Calder-esque wire horse sculpture to our workspace. He’d made it by twisting some wires together. Doug pivoted from commercial art to fine art several years ago, and we’re grateful for the freedom that gave him. His art is unique, memorable, and very recognizable.


Doug at Cruzioworks

Doug at Cruzioworks

His participation. At our coworking “Bounce Hour” get-togethers, Doug explained how he approached art, shared his Toastmaster training,and even organized an evening of sketching for our community. He led a chapter of Toastmasters. He was a beloved longtime member and leader, well known to other coworkers for his warmth and willingness to help.

His care for marine mammals. How many of us look out at the big ocean, full of wild creatures, and think, “I can help with that.” But perhaps the animal world has the most to thank Doug for. He regularly saved stranded sea lions and whales caught in garbage and debris. From time to time he’d get a call at work and he’d rush out to the beach or the bay to help a distressed animal. Doug’s strength, smarts and skill came in handy for cold water rescue operations, and he was summoned for the most difficult jobs.

His mad-scientist passion for solving problems. Doug invented equipment that will improve the process of untangling whales from debris.

Chris Neklason, Cruzio’s CEO, said

“A Venn diagram is a chart of intersecting circles. Each circle could indicate a talent or an interest. A Venn diagram of Doug would be an infinitely petaled flower with a blazing core.”

Most of all, we’ll miss seeing Doug walk toward us, coffee cup in hand, wryly smiling, saying hello. Any community is only as great as its participants make it. We all depended on Doug for his leadership and we will miss him terribly. Much love to his family.


The End of the World As We Know It?


One of the biggest perks of the Cruzioworks Community is our always-enlightening Bounce Hour.

Every Thursday at 10:30am, Cruzioworks members and their guests are invited to join us for engaging conversations ranging from political discussions led by numerous city council candidates, to simulations that show the factors that could lead to the end of civilization as we know it. Plus, there’s free snacks and coffee for everyone that shows up.

Today, we wanted to give you a sneak peak into exactly what you can expect from Bounce Hour if you decide to become a member yourself. Yesterday, Cruzioworks member Alex Lamb gave us an in-depth, and often darkly hilarious look into how data modeling can help us predict the future of the human race. Take a look:

Alex spoke about how he uses data to predict human behavior and explain how society as a whole makes decisions. He showed jaw-dropping models demonstrating everything from the dangers of using social media as news, to how commerce, white collar crime, and global unification can actually lead to modern civilization’s demise. But, throughout the whole discussion, he maintained hope for the future of the human race and discussed how we can avoid disaster moving forward.

Bounce Hours are only one of the many benefits to becoming a member of the Cruzioworks coworking community. As a 24/7 Member, you can also enjoy full around-the-clock access to our state-of the-art coworking hub. There, you’ll have access to our lightning-fast gigabit-speed fiber internet, well-appointed meeting rooms, and our on-site organic cafe — All starting at $179 a month. And if you only need to work normal business hours, we also have 9-5 memberships for just $129 a month.

Enjoy enlightening Bounce Hour discussions like Alex’s and the other Cruzioworks perks by signing up for a membership!

Cruzio’s Open House Extravaganza 6.0: A Resounding Success


Last Friday, thousands of excited people partied with us in our coworking and technology hub at this year’s Cruzio Open House Extravaganza 6.0. Community members sipped complimentary beverages, danced to fantastic tunes and enjoyed delicious food as they admired the wonderful work our Cruzioworks members do every day. Let’s take a quick tour:

Cruzio's own Ani Zickuhr's animated depictions of cats lined the walls.

Cruzio’s own Ani Zickuhr’s animated depictions of cats lined the walls.

Cruzio welcomed art enthusiasts, as visitors browsed pieces by local artists Doug Ross, Verna Knapp and Cruzio’s own Marketing Associate, Ani Zickuhr. Ani’s pride and joy, her adorably animated depictions of cats, lit up the entry wall, welcoming our guests into the party.

Through the door into our atrium, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and our fantastic Cruzio volunteers were pouring up delicious free local brews and wine for all of our beloved community members.  Their India Pale Ale was particularly tasty, and very popular with everyone who had a sip.


Community members gather to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the OHE

From there, guests walked into the Cruzioworks main event space, where our works members showed off their passions, projects and professions. Visitors could hear from city council candidate Robert Singleton, get advice from co-active life coach Karen Gray, and learn about the potential future of a light rail in Santa Cruz county from Colin Young, Tom Padula and Autumn Cardone–all of whom are Cruzioworks members.

And of course, we were on hand to talk about fiber internet in Santa Cruz, and how all of us can take part in bringing the future of internet into their communities. (hint: the survey here is a good place to start!)

Lisa and Alana educate visitors on the benefits of fiber internet at the Cruzio booth

Lisa and Alana educate visitors on the benefits of fiber internet at the Cruzio booth

When hunger struck, guests could head out back. There, the Ate3One food truck, coordinated by local and wildly popular food truck company Food Trucks-a-Go-Go, was serving up delicious meals like Philly Cheesesteaks, Naughty Fries, and Garlic Shrimp tacos.

Brian is ready to enjoy a delicious Philly Cheesesteak at the Ate3One Food Truck.

Brian is ready to enjoy a delicious Philly Cheesesteak at the Ate3One Food Truck.

Throughout the evening, everyone in the building was enjoying the smooth sounds of the always fantastic bluegrass band Full Moon Rooster. And in the band was Cruzio Team Member, and Field Operations Lead (we all like to have a wide array of abilities here at the office!), Ariel Carter showing off her wonderful talent.

Full Moon Rooster played bluegrass tunes all night long

Full Moon Rooster played bluegrass tunes all night long

The event was a spectacularly fun evening. As everyone shuffled out the door, their laughs echoed through the halls. Another fantastic OHE gone by.

The Cruzio crew celebrates a successful night.

The Cruzio crew celebrates a successful night.

One last thing: we want to give a tremendous thank you to Alana, Brian, Ani, Andrew, Robert, Natalie and Shannon. They’re the Cruzio staffers who worked hard all night, and helped to make this event a reality. That’s the crew from left to right in the picture above.

Not pictured above is Andrew’s mom Lisa, who was instrumental in helping us with everything from cleanup to running booths. Thank you Lisa!

And a special shout-out to Andrew, who’s hard work and determination was integral in making this event happen. Without his blood, sweat and tears, the OHE wouldn’t have been half the event we all enjoyed.

Andrew makes his eloquent speech at the end of the night.

Andrew makes his eloquent speech at the end of the night.


Cruzio staffers Colin, Alex, Dave and Ali take kick back and enjoy the night

Cruzio staffers Colin, Alex, Dave and Ali kick back and enjoy the night

Cruzio Holds Community Party at Open House Extravaganza 6.0


On First Friday November 4th, get ready to party with Cruzio and our Works members at our Open House Extravaganza 6.0. If you’re looking for rockin’ music, exceptional art, free drinks and fascinating people–we’ll have all of that for you and more. We don’t call it an extravaganza for no reason.

For the 6th straight year, you can party with some of the best local businesses and entrepreneurs, who’ll show off the innovative work they do every day here in the high-octane Cruzioworks community. And it’ll all be happening in our beautiful coworking and technology hub in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz.

If you’re looking for inspiration from art, local award-winning artist Doug Ross will park his vintage trailer near our building’s front door. Inside, he’ll show his unique brand of art, which has been featured everywhere from the New York Times to the Royal Bank of Canada. In the building there’ll be lots more art from local artists, so be sure to peruse as you sip.

Also in Cruzioworks, Joanna Nelson of LandSea Science will be on hand to discuss her years of experience and current work protecting our beautiful and precious Monterey Bay from climate change. And co-active life coach Karen Gray will spin her Wheel-of-Life to show you a snapshot of your life, and give you insight into how you can achieve balance and satisfaction.

These are only a few of the interesting exhibits that’ll be featured at this year’s event. You’ll be sure to find even more creative Cruzioworks members showcasing the work and art they do every day in Santa Cruz.

Even with all of these extraordinary exhibits, we know it wouldn’t be a party without food, music, and drinks. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

If you arrive thirsty,  the award-winning Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery will be pouring free certified organic draft beverages all night. And if you’ve got an eye for food, come grab a bite to eat at local food trucks parked right outside.

While you’re here, you can also enjoy the sounds of bluegrass band Full Moon Rooster, which includes our very own award winning Field Ops technician,  Ariel Carter!

And if you’re interested in the future of blazing-fast internet in Santa Cruz, we will be talking about our Santa Cruz Fiber initiative and giving a sneak peak into our plans to bring gigabit internet to your neighborhood.

All of this is only a piece of what you’ll find at this year’s OHE. We look forward to seeing you very soon on November 4th, for First Friday’s Open House Extravaganza 6.0!

Cruzio and the Loma Fire: Day One

An eagle watches the Loma Fire

An eagle watches the Loma Fire

September 26th in Santa Cruz was unseasonably hot. Fire weather.

At about 2:45 pm, one of our ham radio enthusiasts emailed us: “Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains… Just a quarter acre, someone’s trailer caught fire,” he told us.

In an hour the fire had spread to 200 acres. Local TV news streamed a live feed, which we tweeted: a helicopter circling Loma Prieta mountain, watching the fire race uphill.

Small planes from Cal Fire dumped loads of flame retardant on a mountain covered with dry, brittle trees and brush. At first, Cruzio staff watched like anyone else would watch, worrying about the people, pets and animals who might be affected. But it got more personal as the hours passed.

2:48 pm, from Cruzio's camera

2:48 pm, from Cruzio’s camera, we’re seeing nearby smoke

A telecommunications facility, used by many companies including Cruzio, sits on top of Loma Prieta. We serve some fiber-to-wireless customers from that site, and it’s an important backup to our fiber connections, protecting our network from outages. We’ve spent years acquiring and deploying expensive equipment there.

Starting at about 2:45 pm, we watched live TV footage of the fire approaching the bunker-like buildings and steel tower housing our equipment.

2:48 pm, from TV footage

2:48 pm, a TV helicopter’s view of Loma

Cruzio has security cameras up there — we mostly use them to monitor weather, so we can make sure snow and ice don’t interfere with equipment in winter. The cameras can be swiveled, zoomed and aimed remotely, so we can see all around. Often, one of our technicians will spot mountain lions or eagles close to the buildings and they’ll email out screen shots. We love the cameras.

By 3:30 pm, our security cameras were picking up nearby flames.

3:42 pm, from Cruzio's camera

3:42 pm, from Cruzio’s camera, the edge of the fire moving up the mountain

At Cruzio headquarters, we anxiously watched the live video. We hoped the fire would miss our facility. Winds were blowing away from the buildings — we could see embers blowing away from the camera. But the situation changed by the minute.

As we swiveled the camera, we saw fire in dozens of spots burning just down the hill.

If fire had engulfed the mountaintop facility, and burned the bunkers down, our equipment would have been destroyed. But the site is prepared for fire, with a wide dirt clearance, paved perimeter road and concrete buildings. And once we saw the fire moving south, we were relieved that the fire wouldn’t destroy our equipment. Now we worried about electricity.  Continue Reading: Night One


Cruzio and the Loma Fire: Night One

Cruzio and the Loma Fire: Night One

Loma Fire from Cruzio's security cameras, 8:36 pm

Loma Fire from Cruzio’s security cameras, 8:36 pm

Cruzio staff were glued to our video, watching the Loma Fire burn close to our hilltop equipment for hours. By early evening, the tall flames were very near our buildings, but luckily never crossed the paved perimeter.

They came awfully close, though. As we swiveled and zoomed our camera remotely, this is what we saw:

Loma fire from Cruzio security camera, 8:24 pm

Loma fire from Cruzio security camera, 8:24 pm

Loma Fire from Cruzio security camera, 8:11 pm

Loma Fire from Cruzio security camera, 8:11 pm

At about 6 pm, PG&E had cut power for safety reasons. You don’t want live electrical wires on burning poles.

How We Prepare for Emergencies Like the Loma Fire

Now back a step, to Cruzio’s long years of planning. In 2009, when we started using mountaintop facilities, we had limited power backup at those sites. When there was a problem with power — which happens more often than you’d like, — we’d have to rush up to fix the situation.

One of Cruzio’s principles of operation is that we must do absolutely all we can to provide 24/7 service without fail. Plus, we hate going up to mountains in bad weather, in the middle of a freezing night.

So Cruzio has invested heavily in long-lasting power backups for mountaintops.

Now, we have backup batteries rated to last 24 hours. We refresh our batteries on a regular schedule every year so they are always in good shape. We regularly test our generators and monitor our power equipment. Our teams drill for emergencies and every member of our staff is ready to help. It all comes in handy at a time like this.

Those powerful batteries meant we maintained service all night while the fire blazed around the hilltop. The batteries also kept the cameras going so we continued to watch, transfixed, throughout the evening.

But after a day, we knew our batteries would run down. We needed to get up the mountain with a generator to recharge them — PG&E was estimating a whole week before power was restored.

We kept watching until late at night. Even though the fire had passed us, Cal Fire said there was no way we could get to our site until late morning. So our Field Operations staff prepared to go up first thing the next day.
Continue Reading: Day Two

Cruzio and the Loma Fire: Day Two

In the morning on September 27th, Field Operations Manager Alison Lowenthal, engineer Colin Miller, and our new apprentices, Cameron Langston and Rafferty Lincoln, headed up in the truck to see if we could get to the mountaintop where fire had threatened. It was Cameron’s first day at work — what a first day. Ralph Silveira, one of our top field staff, drove out, too, but had to head home with a flat tire. Over 2,000 acres were now burning, but the fire had moved south of our site, so we were hoping to reach our equipment.

Loma Fire road block September 27th

Trying to get to Cruzio’s gear, but not yet allowed up, September 27th

The mountain facility doesn’t have a permanent generator, so we have to bring our own when power is down. Usually we have enough battery power to last out any outage, but in this case the power could be down for many days, PG&E said. Over a dozen nearby utility poles had burnt or fallen or both.

Cruzio needed to get the generator running to recharge the batteries before they ran out of juice.

Emergency personnel stopped our team partway up the winding mountain road. “Not safe yet.” We know there are two entrances to the site — and our customers are depending on us — so the crew drove down the mountain, onto Highway 17, and tried going in the north entrance, opposite where the fire was burning. Chris Frost, our Director of Technology and Infrastructure, coordinated with Cal Fire to determine the safest way up the mountain.

They stopped at Tomita Hill, where they took this photo of Loma:

Loma Fire September 27th

Loma Fire September 27th

The unpaved roads on that side are even more winding. Once again Field Ops were stopped by Cal Fire staff, who told them “But if you go back around the other entrance, maybe you can get in that way.” So they drove all the way back down to 17, and back up again to where they’d started. Then they waited at the road block for a few hours.

Cruzio's Colin Miller (center, in white tee shirt) at the road block

Cruzio’s Colin Miller (center, in white tee shirt) at the road block

Delay was pushing the limits of our equipment. Back at Cruzio, we were watching (on internet monitors) as the power supplies drained away.

Mark Hanford, our Chief Systems Engineer, was re-routing all the customers he could away from Loma Prieta. Networks have some amount of flexibility — that’s why every site is important, and redundancy is crucial — so Mark was reconfiguring the network to route around the emergency. In a short time, he had moved almost all our customers away from the problem.

Then we waited to see if the power would go down before our crew could get in.

By day two, one side of the mountain was burned to ash

One side of the mountain was burned to ash

At 5:30 pm, half an hour was left on the battery. Time ticked away. 15 minutes. 10. At 6 pm, Mark said “Okay. Power can go off any second now.” Our team was still waiting at the Cal Fire stop, waiting for entry. Capacity on the batteries went to zero.

But miraculously our power didn’t go out. The batteries kept running. They kept going past their expected charge. Mark stayed at the office, waiting for the power to go off so he could check on his emergency network routing. 7 pm. 8 pm. The batteries didn’t die. Our guys were waiting on the mountain. 8:30 pm.

Finally, the batteries were out at 8:50. They had run on “empty” for two and half hours!

Then, just after battery power went out, we got word: Cal Fire was escorting Cruzio’s team up the hill in a convoy of fire and water trucks, and onto our site. It was stop-and-go all the way up the mountain as the fire was hard to work around. Although diminished at that time, some flames were only feet away from the vehicles.

“We could hear the fire like a jet engine,” recounted Colin Miller, “You could see the embers flying into the trees [near] where the vehicles were.” It was clear, though, that the fire was moving away and our team made it up the mountain safely.

It only takes 5 minutes to power up the generator. Our crew had it going in no time. Then they took turns watching all night, and sleeping in shifts, to make sure everything ran smoothly.

Up there on the tower, above the smoke the air was clear. After a long day of braving the smoky air and fire, Field Ops took the opportunity to end the night with some stargazing. Alison Lowenthal summarized the day: “It’s intense, but it’s actually a lot of fun. I love being up on Loma.”
Continue Reading: The Aftermath