Alta Oil & Propane Co. Inc.

July 1, 2008 By    

When Richard Linzmeier steps outside on a cold night in central California, he can hear engines buzzing.

“It sounds like a bunch of World War II bombers taking off,” says Linzmeier, president of Alta Oil & Propane Co. Inc. in Reedley, Calif., 25 miles southeast of Fresno.

Team: From left, Richard Linzmeier, Deb Linzmeier, John Linzmeier, Jodie Lewis, Connie Woodward, Casey Haywood and Chris Haywood
Team: From left, Richard Linzmeier, Deb Linzmeier, John Linzmeier, Jodie Lewis, Connie Woodward, Casey Haywood and Chris Haywood

“I’ve grown up in this area, so it seems normal,” he adds. “Back east, it’s probably kind of unusual.”

Of course, the region isn’t being invaded by warplanes. It’s just caring for an abundance of citrus crops that can be affected by nighttime cold. Linzmeier hears wind machines that are warming those crops, and his company plays its part by supplying the propane on which they run.

“Citrus is a big crop right now,” Linzmeier says in May. “They’re getting good money for it.”

About 12,000 to 14,000 wind machines in California are propane driven, according to the California Citrus Manual. Linzmeier estimates thousands of acres of wind machines in the region – one machine for every 6 to 8 acres – with each burning 14 gallons of propane per hour. His company services a portion of them.

Inversion layers of air 20 feet off the ground are 3 or 4 degrees warmer, Linzmeier explains. The wind machines, standing about 30 feet high, blow that warm air onto the trees. Propane-powered pumps perform the same function with well water, warming trees from the ground up.

Agricultural applications comprise only a small segment of Alta’s business. Most of the company’s 3,000 customers use propane for residential applications – home heating, water heating and cooking and washing clothes. Alta also services the commercial sector.

“It’s not the biggest part of our business, but it always comes at the busiest time of year [around December and January],” Linzmeier says of agriculture. “So we’re on our toes.”

Alta has been a staple of the Reedley community, celebrating 75 years of service in 2008. Linzmeier’s grandfather, J.W. Linzmeier, bought the business in 1933, and third- and fourth-generation family members still work there. The company runs four bobtails, including three on propane.

Things have changed over the years. Alta used to be on the outskirts of town, but recent construction has brought the town closer. And although Linzmeier knows the company will have to adapt to its changing surroundings, it will continue to rely on its foundation.

“Just years in the business,” he says, “and a good reputation.”

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