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GTE CALIFORNIA OFFICES BECOME VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF COMMAND POST; GTE OFFERS FREE PHONE SERVICES TO DISPLACED FIRE VICTIMS

 THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- By 10:30 p.m., Thursday, only 600 of GTE California's total 3.1 million statewide customers were still out of service as a result of fires that ravaged Southern California for the last three days. Only about 2,500 customers had been out of service due to the fires.
 With major relief work left for the hard-hit Laguna Beach and Malibu/Westlake Village/Newbury Park communities, by Thursday night, GTE had about 250 customers in Malibu and Newbury Park without phone service, and about 350 customers without service in Laguna Beach. Elsewhere, calling conditions mostly had returned to normal.
 To speed up fire-recovery efforts for today's recurring fires in the Westlake Village/Lake Sherwood communities, GTE California has provided its corporate headquarters here as the command center for the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. The sheriff's department moved into the facility late today.
 "We want to do everything in our power to assist the fire-fighting and fire-relief effort," said Larry Sparrow, GTE West Area president. "We're opening our doors and resources to the recovery effort."
 Sparrow said GTE has waived the basic monthly phone rate for 90 days for Californians displaced by the fires. GTE also is offering fire victims free local and toll calling from coin phone trailers located in Malibu and Laguna Beach. AT&T, MCI and Sprint will provide free long- distance service from those phones, excluding international calls.
 "To help displaced customers stay in touch with their friends, family and business associates, GTE is providing customers free remote call forwarding, so they can be called on their usual phone number, which can be transferred to another location within GTE or Pacific Bell," Sparrow said.
 Customers would pay for only toll costs for this service. Or, displaced customers within GTE can use Personal Secretary, its voice messaging service, at no charge. Personal Secretary takes private messages from callers trying to reach fire victims at their home or business numbers. And those affected can leave a personal message for family, friends or business associates and can change or retrieve messages at any time from any touch-tone phone. After 90 days, customers would pay their basic phone rate, but could receive remote call forwarding or Personal Secretary free of charge until October 1994.
 Residential English- and Spanish-speaking customers can order either service by calling 800-483-4000, while English-speaking business customers can order either service by calling 800-483-5000. Spanish- speaking business customers can order either service by calling GTE's Language Assistance Center at 800-483-7724.
 Fire-Fighting Update
 To facilitate communications among firefighters, GTE has provided mobile cellular phones to fire departments in Ventura County and Laguna Beach. These "Gopaks" include five mobile phones and a fax machine.
 Additionally, GTE has provided phone lines to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, and for the emergency services command centers in Laguna Beach, Malibu, Thousand Oaks and Hemet.
 The company also installed a portable microwave facility to serve the Laguna Beach Police Department and is continuing to work with emergency agencies to provide communications capabilities.
 GTE evacuated its customer contact center in Mentone Wednesday afternoon due to heavy smoke in the area. That building was not harmed. The Laguna Beach service yard also was evacuated due to encroaching fires; that building also was not touched by the flames and employees returned to work there Thursday morning.
 In Mentone, near Redlands, 1,200 customers lost phone service when fire melted a 12,000-foot, fiber-optic cable early Wednesday evening. Other outages included 260 customers in Yucaipa and 139 customers in Homeland.
 In the initial Thousand Oaks fire, a fiber-optic cable providing non-GTE communications was burned on Laguna Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains near Westlake Village/Newbury Park. That loss did not disrupt basic communications at the Pt. Mugu Naval Yard, only ancillary services were affected. That cable was replaced late Thursday.
 GTE customer service centers, including operator services, repair, billing and service order, were open for business by Thursday morning for normal business. Operator services and repair centers are open 24 hours daily.
 GTE California, based in Thousand Oaks, serves 3.1 million customers in 330 communities, mostly in Southern California.
 -0- 10/28/93
 /CONTACT: Larry Cox or Dan Smith of GTE California 24-Hour News Bureau, 800-227-5556 or (out of state) 805-373-1653/


CO: GTE California ST: California IN: TLS SU:

JL -- NYON2 -- 8293 10/29/93 02:23 EDT
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Date:Oct 29, 1993
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