CALIENTE, Calif. (KERO) — The first thing we think of in case of an emergency is calling 9-1-1 or calling a family member for help. But in Caliente, many of the residents have not been able to make calls for almost 4 weeks.
Imagine having no cell phone service. No way to use your phone. That's what the communities in one part of Kern County are facing. When the landlines that they rely on went down almost four weeks ago many of them felt abandoned.
"Well since June 21st when we had the electrical storm up here, we haven't had any phone service. We kind of expected not to have power but they were up in two days no problem at all, and the phone says the system has been down," explained Lester Jellison, a Caliente resident.
Like Jellison, many of the residents in the Twin Oaks and Caliente area are elderly, having chosen to retire in the peace and quiet of the community.
There is no cell phone service because there are no cell towers in the area, so residents count on landlines. And because AT&T is the only company that has landlines laid out, when their service is out, no one in town can make calls unless they have satellite. But with most being on fixed incomes, not everyone can afford satellite.
"After about a week and a half I started making phone calls every chance I got when I go into town but it's, I mean we have a you know, I realized when I started getting all of these referral letters from my doctor that I needed to make phone calls and I couldn't. You know there are some bills I only pay on the phone and I can't do that," says Veronica Cieslik. "My husband has disabilities that might end up in the hospital with. I need to be able to call the fire station. I don't know what to do otherwise, especially if all my neighbors are out too so without a telephone, we're really a creek with no solution."
Cieslik is one of nine residents 23ABC spoke with Monday in this situation. She has driven to Bakersfield multiple times to hot spot her cell phone to make calls to AT&T with no luck. She says she is transferred to multiple people, and she simply does not have time to drive 100 miles out every day to continue pushing for the service to be restored, adding they just deserve the service they are paying for.
"I tried to tell somebody the other day whose husband wasn't breathing right that I can't call 911 for him and that's what made me think like what about me you know. So it made me even more scared and like I can't report a fire, I can't. My house has rattlesnakes all around it I've been dealing with it for three days I cant call for help if I get bit," added Caliente resident Rebecca Roe.
23ABC has not been able to get a figure on exactly how many residents are affected but did reach out to AT&T and they did send back a statement.
"We are working as quickly as possible to restore home phone service to a small number of customers in Caliente after utility work performed by a third-party disrupted our service."
23ABC checked in with Kern County who says KCSO has no reports of landline service being out.
On Monday night two of the residents reported to 23ABC that their landline was back up and working again.
Meanwhile on the following Wednesday, AT&T sent 23ABC an update stating:
"We have restored home phone service to a small number of Caliente residents who experienced disruptions due to another company’s utility work in the area."
Meanwhile, residents hope the county or other cell phone providers will invest in creating cell phone towers out in Caliente so they will never again be put in this situation.
This article was updated to include a new statements sent by representatives of AT&T.